Book Review: Loge Liberté cherié: A Light In The Darkness by Alexander P. Herbert

by Midnight Freemason Emeritus Contributor
WB Adam Thayer

Click the image above to check out the book. 
One of the great joys in my Masonic journey is getting to read new research materials for review. I’m often contacted by authors who are releasing new books with the opportunity to read their work in exchange for an honest review. As someone who reads an obscene amount, I always jump at the chance.

I received a copy of B. Herbert’s history of a Masonic Lodge formed inside a concentration camp with a lot of excitement, as this era of Freemasonry has always been an interest of mine. Unfortunately, I stupidly took my copy to my office, intending to read it on my lunch breaks, and shortly after, our office shut down due to the current pandemic. All of this is a very long-winded explanation to apologize to B. Herbert for taking so long to review this great book!

A Light In The Darkness covers the events surrounding the formation of Loge Liberté chérie, a Masonic Lodge that formed and met inside of a concentration camp. Due to the highly illegal nature of the Lodge, records are quite scarce, making this book the most complete history we will likely have available.

The book begins with a brief explanation of the cultural views of Freemasonry during World War II, a topic that is generally glossed over in most history books. Specifically, the book gets into a pretty thorough discussion of the laws and edicts that were passed forbidding different aspects of the Craft, which culminated in Freemasons being arrested and put in concentration camps as political prisoners.

It continues by examining the three Catholic priests who served as unofficial Tilers for the Lodge, by keeping an eye out for Nazi guards patrolling the camp during Lodge meetings. This section definitely provides an interesting counterpoint to the typical “Catholics hate the Freemasons” narrative that we usually see in history, and shows that good people continue to do good deeds, even in the darkest times.

The book then hits the “meat” of the topic: the formation of Loge Liberté chérie the business the Lodge was able to perform within the camp, and the artisans they worked with to procure supplies, such as a tracing board. Unfortunately, as previously stated, while this is the most exciting part of the book, it is also the most sparse; even in the best of times, Lodge records can be difficult to locate, and since this specific Lodge was formed in extreme secrecy, the records are nearly non-existent. Most of the history we have available is from the three brothers who survived to the end of World War II, and from others who were in the camp with them.

We finish with a brief examination of the troubles faced by the Brothers of the Lodge post World War II to gain official recognition, as the Lodge was formed clandestinely under extreme circumstances. It is interesting to note that while the Lodge first formed in 1943, and the war ended in 1945, the Lodge was not granted official recognition and a charter until 1987.

This book itself is pretty short and can be finished in an afternoon, however, considering the events it is examining took place over a short time that is not a detriment. It would have been easy for the author to be tempted to pad out the book by adding superfluous materials, and a credit to him that he did not.

The book is also filled with photos that provide greater knowledge of the individuals involved, the layout of the camp and the Lodge within it, and the supplies they had available. These are a welcome addition, as it enriches the experience by helping provide a connection to the text. Many history books leave this material out, and they end up being dry text, so it was good to see how many photos the author was able to include.

I would also like to thank the author for the tremendous amount of research that went into this book; as almost none of the source materials were in English, he had to not only compile the information presented but also translate it, and then fit it into the overall narrative. I can only imagine the hundreds of hours of research that went into putting this together, and it is evident that the author knew the material very well by the time he was finished.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone with interest in Masonic history, as it provides a precious window into a Lodge that would easily have been forgotten otherwise. You can pick up a physical copy from Amazon or Barnes and Noble for $10 US; unfortunately, due to rights issues for the images, a digital copy is not currently available.


~AT

How Would I Know You To Be a Mason, Online?

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Brother Michael Laidlaw


In the age of technology, it’s no surprise that Freemasons from all over the globe converge to social media platforms to meet new Brothers. In my time online, I have done the same. With this point of interest comes social connections but also--many hurdles.

While the social connections create a loudspeaker for what your Lodge, Valley, or Shrine may be doing, it also serves as a place for potential members to seek a starting point for the journey into Freemasonry. Freemasonry has been for many generations confined to your town or perhaps the neighboring town. There was a time when a person would have to walk into the Lodge and express interest; however, times have changed.

Today a simple e-mail can be sent to Grand Lodge. Grand Lodge will, in turn, get in contact with the Lodge that is near the potential member. Then that Lodge will reach out to the one who inquired. This is the traditional way. But more and more often, the first contact is made or asked through social media--and there begin the Masonic Journey.

With all these Freemasons online, I have met Brothers from all over the globe. But how do we make sure these people are actually Freemasons? While sometimes it’s easy to pick out Irregular or "quasimasonic" orders, others have passed themself off as Masons and do it very well. Still, how do we ascertain if one is genuinely a Brother--online?

I have seen many call out men who I have sat in lodge with simply because they refuse to state their lodge name and number. They'll be accused of not being a "Regular" Freemason. While Masonry holds secrecy in high regards, men need to understand privacy, and that privacy must be respected and honored. If someone doesn't want to give their Lodge name and number, so be it.

The protection of Craft is vital, especially online. From how one perceives you, to how you perceive another. But calling one out is not the answer. I feel that kindly dismissing yourself is critical, any other way often leads to a debate, and ultimately to online turmoil.

How do we navigate all of this? The short answer is that we really can’t. One can produce a “dues card”, but this still poses problems. It’s simple to go online and fashion a dues card with their name on it. Or cards issued by irregular lodges are produced and given to their members. It all seems legitimate. Yes, one can provide pictures of their dues card as well, but this also has its hurdles. 

We all know irregular lodges meet and like to take pictures. Much like us, their regalia may be similar to ours Bear in mind regalia is different throughout the United States, and the world for that matter, so we must tread lightly. That being said Photoshop and other forms of technology can and does play a role in the deception. It is simple to utilize these tools. So how would I truly know a man to be a Brother? Simply put, sit in Lodge with them. If a man says he is a Freemason online, take it as such, but be cautious. Because after all, can you discuss all the things you swore to protect with someone you never met? Stay steadfast.

~ML

Michael Laidlaw was raised to the Sublime degree in 2011 and is a plural Member of South Pasadena 290 and Southern California Research Lodge where he is Junior Warden and Pop Culture editor for The Fraternal Review Magazine. He is also serving as Senior Steward for Arcadia 278. Michael is an active council member for Jobs Daughters Bethel 210 Arcadia (where his daughter is serving as Honored Queen) and serves on the Grand Lodge of California Youth Orders Committee. He is a 32° Scottish Rite Mason from the Valley Of Pasadena Orient of California where he has completed all three Master Craftsman Courses. Michael is also a member of San Gabriel Valley Chapter No. 100 RAM, Alhambra Council No. 25 CM, and Foothill Commandery No. 63 KT. He also holds Membership in Cinema Grotto and Order of Eastern Star.

Do You Know What Your Mission Is In Life?

by Midnight Freemasons Founder
Todd E. Creason, 33° 


“Outside the home and the house of God there is nothing in this world more beautiful than the Spirit of Masonry. Gentle, gracious, and wise, its mission is to form mankind into a great redemptive brotherhood, a league of noble and free men enlisted in the radiant enterprise of working out in time the love and will of the Eternal.”

 ~Joseph Ford Newton

A couple evenings last week, I took part in a group activity. I wasn’t too excited about it when I first read about it, but I thought it might be interesting. The goal of this group project was to create a personal mission statement. According to what I read prior to the first session, a personal mission statement can be an extremely powerful tool. If you create one that captures what you’re all about, it can help direct almost every decision and aspect of your life. That sounded like a big promise for something that’s only a couple sentences long, but as I’m beginning a new adventure in life and I have spent some considerable time over the last year pondering some of these very issues, I decided it was probably well worth my time.

Prior to these discussions, we received about a dozen questions that were meant to clarify what we were about—they were strictly for our own use. I spent a couple hours answering them. After I finished, I went back and read over the pages I'd written. It was pretty easy to see some very common themes.  It was also pretty obvious where my aspirations were frequently in conflict with the reality of what I was doing. We’d return to these questions over and over again over the next couple of evenings—highlighting different areas, pulling out recurring themes, and identifying the disconnects. Over the weekend I took all the things I learned during those two evenings, and I created the beginnings of a very short personal mission statement.

I realized at some point as I’m going through this exercise that I’d done some of this before. I’d asked myself many of these same questions at a certain point in my life. The last time I found myself stuck in a routine and wondering what was next.

“What’s important to you?”
“Where do you want to go?”
“What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind?”
“What personality traits do you need to gain to get where you want to go?"
"Which personality traits do you need to lose?”
“What does your best life look like?”

Last time those questions lead me to join the Masonic Lodge. My answers were a little different last time around, but I’m further down the path now than I was. The Masonic Lodge has been a powerful motivator in my life. It’s given me focus. It’s given me good examples to follow. It’s given me opportunities to do things I’d never done before. It’s repeatedly taken me to the next level. It changed my life and my direction. In fact, it brought me to this crossroads I find myself at right now!

Too many Masons miss what this is about. They remain the same person they were when they joined—some convinced they’re a gift to Freemasonry rather than the other way around. We hear the words, but we don’t apply the principles. They read books about Freemasonry so they can discuss books about Freemasonry, but they never apply the Freemasonry!  These Masons will be the first to tell you that Freemasonry is a journey, but they've never actually packed for the trip.

Freemasonry is work—some of the most difficult work you’ll ever do. It involves rebuilding yourself better! Strengthening those good aspects of your character and eliminating the bad ones. About finding out what you’re good at, what you’re passionate about and putting that energy to good use. But the hard part in all of that is being honest with ourselves. Being able to admit to ourselves that there are some areas we need to work on. Being able to look in the mirror and see what other people see and have the desire to change what you see.

A personal mission statement is a good thing to have. If nothing else, it clarifies what is personally important to you and gives your life focus. But without a doubt, there’s never been a better time than during this quarantine for many of us to take some time to do a personal inventory. We have ample time to ponder difficult questions that sometimes get drowned out in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, and find that ladder to the next level.

~TEC

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

The Stoic Apprentice

by Midnight Freemason Emeritus Contributor
James E. Frey


We live in an age of uncertainty. Twenty million people have applied for unemployment, thus far, millions more are quarantined, and we have no end in sight for the pandemic that has ravaged the world. This makes a lot of us feel an overwhelming sense of anxiety because these circumstances are outside of our control. Many of the support systems people had as well, like friends and family, have given way to isolation. And chances are good it will get worse before it gets better. We will be surrounded by images of death in the news and our community. This will be shocking to most, but as Freemasons, we are uniquely prepared for this because we have been prepared by the teachings of our Craft. We have already learned to contemplate our own mortality when most stray away from such thoughts. We are better equipped to help those suffering--to reframe this experience into an opportunity for growth.

I will focus on the degree of Apprentice as it gives the most direct tools of understanding this feeling of dread and interpreting it through a stoic mindset. The first part of this is not often used in many jurisdictions, but its importance cannot be overstated--the chamber of reflection. This tradition arose in German lodges for existential meditations. The focal point for the chamber of reflection, as well as many other higher degrees and orders, is the skull, a reminder of the fragility of life. It is a reminder of the fact that our existence is limited in time. Through death, we are reminded of why life is so precious. Because we too, like everything else in life, must pass. There is no escape nor avoidance. We will die.

To the uninitiated, this bleak dread can turn one to fill that void with a hedonistic lifestyle, seeking a consumerist satisfaction, or ruthless service to one’s sense of superiority. But like many at home right now, all the Netflix, Amazon deliveries and angry political posting won’t distract you from the genuine fact that your experience will end. Even worse, others turn to nihilism, finding no purpose in their experience. This is where Masonic truths give relief because the lessons of the Apprentice are connected to the ancient philosophy of Stoicism.

Stoicism is an ancient Greek school of philosophy founded at Athens by Zeno of Citium. The school taught that virtue is based on knowledge devised from reason; the wise live in harmony with the divine Providence--the divine force that governs nature and the fate of all men. Stoicism teaches one to be indifferent to the vicissitudes of pleasure and pain. The Stoics claim many influential philosophers, including Epictetus, Seneca, and even Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. The Stoics viewed death as a natural succession to life that cannot be denied. But it can be utilized as a great motivator in life. Stoics believed that through our actions, we are given the opportunity to live what the Stoics referred to as a virtuous life.

The Stoics defined virtue within four characteristics, known as the Four Cardinal Virtues of Stoicism. Sound familiar? It should because Stoicism alongside Aristotelian ethics are the major founding approaches to Western virtue ethics. Prudence, the innate wisdom we possess. Justice, our ability to be moral in our actions. Temperance, our self-control over our actions, and Fortitude, being courageous in the face of life’s adversities. We need to embody all these virtues in every perception of life, and in all our actions. To the Stoics, this is the only life worth living—a life of meaning in which you positively impact the world. The Stoics knew that there was no point in arguing or fighting against the aspects of life for which we have no control. They knew all we can do is to control how we perceive the adversity, and what our actions are in response to it. In his moral letters to Lucilius, Seneca explains death is the unifying act that brings all humanity together.
“The act of dying is equal in all… Death has no degrees of greater or less; for it has the same limit in all instances, the finishing of life.” - Seneca. Letters from a Stoic. Letter LXVI
Death is the inevitable adversity we all face regardless of race, belief, or lifestyle. It is the great uniting force of all men. It is a universal truth. We have no control over death, but we do have control over our lives, the direction we wish to go forth in. Every day that we wake is another opportunity to take steps on the path of virtue, but with every day, we inch closer to death. Time is our most precious resource because it is finite. It is a resource we must utilize to find virtue. The Apprentice is taught to make use of his time by the use of the 24-inch gauge. Eight hours to our vocation to bring stability in our lives, eight hours to rest to bring stability to our body and mind, and eight hours to the service of God to bring virtue into our lives. But what is the service of God? Surely it’s not just charity work and prayer. To the Stoic, it’s taking action to do things that create a purpose for our lives. It could be as simple as reaching out to someone in need, expressing gratitude to the ones we love, or as noble as curing cancer. It is through our actions and how we live our lives that we provide value, not through our job title, our summer home, or our baser urges. Everything we do reverberates throughout time with a compounding effect. So strive to impact the world in a way that leaves it a better place than what we found it, strive to be the perfect ashlar of the self, which is a life worth living. In book nine of Meditations, Marcus Aurelius reminds himself:
“Think not disdainfully of death, but look on it with favor; for even death is one of the things that Nature wills.” Marcus Aurelius. Meditations IX.3This is the existential dilemma that humanity will come to face with soon. When this pandemic is over many of us will either have lost someone we love or would have known someone who has lost someone they love. We will all be soon very aware of the fragility of our physical condition. It is human nature to flee from danger, or flight of fight reflect. So we are programmed to fear our own demise. But it is an inevitability so when we come face to face with death. Face it with Fortitude.

“It is not that we have a short space of time, but that we waste much of it. Life is long enough, and it has been given in sufficiently generous measure to allow the accomplishment of the very greatest things if the whole of it is well invested. But when it is squandered in luxury and carelessness, when it is devoted to no good end, forced at last by the ultimate necessity we perceive that it has passed away before we were aware that it was passing.” Seneca. On the Shortness of Life
 
Yes our time is finite, but our virtue is not. If only you had today what would you do to leave an impression on the world? You still have time to live a virtuous life, to make that impact you want to make, to bring appreciation to others, and joy into this world. “…look to the immensity of time behind thee, and to the time which is before thee, another boundless space. In this infinity then what is the difference between him who lives three days and him who lives three generations?” Marcus Aurelius. Meditations. IV.53
No matter the time left in your life, take charge of your experience. In this time of pandemic, there is no better time to be there for others, to make a difference. To relieve fear and inspire action. The world is in desperate need of leadership, and as Freemasons, we have a plethora of wisdom to call upon to strengthen us to rise to the challenge. Be a stoic apprentice in the face of this pandemic. Follow your sense of prudence, and act justly in all your experiences. Have temperance in all your desires, and in the face of adversity and inevitable decay, show Fortitude and dignity. To keep us motivated in our endeavors, I leave you with a piece of wisdom from the great Marcus Aurelius.
“Think of yourself as dead. You have lived your life. Now take what’s left and live it properly.” Marcus Aurelius. Meditations VII.56
~J.E. Frey

"Without a Plan, There's No Attack. Without Attack, No Victory"

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert E. Jackson 

"Without a plan, there's no attack. Without attack, no victory." 
- Ack Ack Raymond (Curtis Armstrong)
I've written before about the importance of the 24-inch gauge, and how not every gauge is the same size, or even divided in the same fashion. However, with the recent global turn of events, I was inspired by some Brothers to revisit the subject, under a new light.

From my own work situation, the quarantine hasn't changed much. I typically work from home, traveling to customer sites every once in a while, but for the most part, I'm in my home office most of the day. The company I work for, actually, is 'remote first.' We have one office in San Francisco, CA, but the vast majority of the 900+ employees work from their homes. Before the virus hit, I would have conversations with friends about this work environment. I would explain that the best part about working from home is that you can work from home! No traffic to deal with, your own private bathroom, etc. The bad part is that it is SO EASY to just sit back and start working again--regardless of whether it is 10 PM during the week or in the middle of a beautiful Saturday.

When you work in an office, some location that requires a commute, there is a clear delineation of work-life and home life. That commute time, the transition from work to home and vice versa provides a buffer in which the mind can be adjusted. At one point, when I did have a reasonably hefty commute, that physical break-in location and time was the one thing I enjoyed. The time to listen to my favorite podcast or audiobook, and just let go of the stress of the day. However, when your commute consists of opening your office door and walking downstairs, that break and division no longer exists.

So, how do you apply that 24" gauge, when the markers are so challenging to read? If you look at how parents and teachers are managing home-schooling, you can get some great insight. Maintaining sanity requires a schedule and routine. I believe it was Jason Richards from the Masonic Roundtable who stated this week, that humans are creatures of habit, we need routines to function. Not only function, but the daily habits and routines enable us to maintain some level of sanity. If it weren't for the habitual behavior, every task, every action, would be a new decision.

In my personal life, I see this a lot when going out to eat, well when I used to go out to eat. I follow a plant-based diet, which I'm sure you can imagine, makes going out to eat reasonably tricky. Sometimes, if I am going to a more select location for a formal dinner, I leave it up to the chef to cook me something. In many restaurants, there is only one thing, or maybe two, that I can eat—no decision to be made. However, when I go to a vegetarian restaurant, it becomes more difficult. The decision hasn't been made for me, and I'm forced to make a selection. What if it's the wrong one? What if I don't like it? With a habit and with a solid routine, you have fewer decisions to make, and less fear creeps into your head.

Think of how much time is spent in the morning, trying to decide what to eat, or what to wear. I've heard some people state that they enjoy wearing a daily uniform, either for work or school. With the uniform defined, there is no need to decide what to wear. The brain isn't occupied and consuming energy trying to choose. Can you imagine how much stress and fear would be in our lives if every day we had to decide which toothpaste to use, or which part of our body to wash first? These habits and procedures have been built over years of just habit, and with those habits, we don't need the motivation, willpower, or the decision making energy to function. Unfortunately, some habits are more harmful than others.

There are millions of people in the world that are consumed by video games, drugs, alcohol, work, etc. These become habitual behaviors that can be detrimental to your life and consume every inch of that 24-inch gauge. Often these habits can initiate out of boredom--you start doing them, and then they become you're "go-to" every time you aren't sure what to do. Replacing these behaviors with something healthier can be challenging, but well worth it. Much like the years it took us to learn to brush our teeth or wash our hands after using the bathroom; it takes time to build good habits.

"Don't Break the Chain" is a methodology reportedly popularized by Jerry Seinfeld. When you want to replace a bad habit, with a good one, simply decide when you will perform that action and stick to it. Every day, check off your accomplishment, and the more you succeed, the less you want to break the chain. I would postulate that Brother Benjamin Franklin's routines and his practice of his 13 Virtues follows a very similar methodology. All of these methods encourage good habits by introducing one change, one additional link in the chain. The problem now is that our chain has been shattered. So how do you rebuild?

I can certainly admit that the immediate introduction of working from home, without a defined routine, can lead to hours of scrolling through newsfeeds, binge-watching television, and day drinking. But what drives these behavior patterns, if not boredom? Can you imagine how difficult it will be to get back into your routine when the time comes? Instead of falling into a bad habit, use the pieces of your broken chain to develop new routines and new habits that will help you thrive.

From recovery.org, "Why not take charge of it in such a way as to create the most healthy, balanced, and positive lifestyle possible?" Start with setting a schedule for merely waking up and going to bed. If you're feeling ambitious, add mealtimes, just include time for preparation, consumption, and cleanup! After all, the last thing anybody wants to do at the end of a day is spending an hour washing three meals worth of dishes (unless, of course, you find solace in that activity). Establish that foundational structure, and start adding other habits, tasks, or periods of work.

You need to own the day, not let it own you. But this also means setting boundaries. Stop for dinner, and walk away or entirely shut down your work computer. Don't let a restless night turn into an early morning work session. Without the physical boundaries, it's much more challenging to see the hatch marks in the gauge, but it doesn't make them any less critical.

There are a plethora of resources out there to help with self-organization to the point where the information can be overwhelming. My recommendation, should it matter, is to simply throw some terms into your favorite search engine (terms related to creating and maintaining a routine), and click the first link. Read a paragraph or two, and if you're in, great. If not, go back and hit the second link. Set aside 30 minutes in the morning to do this, perhaps with your coffee, and before you know it, you'll feel more productive, efficient, and happy than you ever did in an office explaining what you do to your seven bosses!

~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 Real Secrets of Freemasonry

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Matthew Taheri


I imagine that it would be no shock to you if I were to say that a significant percentage of the profane population believes that we do, or at one point, have ruled the world. It has been suggested by those with no Masonic affiliation that we keep and hold vast secret knowledge required to rule and govern the blind populous of the nation.

As much as it pains me to tell you, I’m not sitting in my palatial estate, watching my loyal scribe dictate these notes. We do not rule the world. Quite frankly, I don’t even rule my household, my newborn does. This, however, does not mean there are no powerful secrets kept among the Brethren in Freemasonry.

In a previous article, I’ve spoken to the intent behind our secrecy. I’ve discussed my belief that we, in part, keep secrets in order to teach codified lessons in a particular format. I’ve also acknowledged that some secrets are kept as to modes of recognition, that we may know a Freemason when we come across one. But beyond this, I still feel that there are ever more critical secrets that we keep, that make us who we are not just as Masons, but as Brothers.

I ask you, what are the secrets of Freemasonry?
Recently in an online discussion amongst Brethren, I had an opportunity to show off my fancy new Square and Compasses decal on my Jeep. I remarked as to how comforting it was being able to upload a picture of the entire rear end of the Jeep without blurring out my license plate. Similarly, I know I could post a picture of my newborn without subjecting her to lewdness.

In this increasingly profane world, the confidence kept amongst Brethren has never been more critical--more valuable. This confidence is the real wage we are paid for our labors.

My Brothers have learned and will continue to learn my greatest strengths and my greatest weaknesses because I feel able to be open and honest with them. I have no feat of mistreatment. I could never be so genuine with a group of individuals who might monetize or utilize these faults for their purposes. We are obligated to both give and receive wise counsel. Still, without the ability to present ourselves as we are, facilitated by secrecy amongst ourselves, we would never have the opportunity to do so.

One last example: I know of a Brother who’s Boss is a member of the Lodge. Imagine the turmoil this could impose if you couldn’t depend on secrecy; if you had to fear revelation! If my Boss petitions the Lodge, and I know him to be unsound, I feel safe in presenting a disfavorable recommendation. I also know that I can speak to my faults amongst my Brethren without having to hear about them over coffee at the office the following morning. Where else on this Earth could you behave similarly?

This secrecy breeds trust and understanding. You know me better for my comfort. I know that if I can trust you with my insecurities, I can trust you with my belongings. Outside of this Lodge room, you can find my laptop, my wallet, and my car keys. I wouldn’t leave those unattended in just any place.

All of this is to illustrate a straightforward fact: The greatest secrets we keep aren’t the ones we withhold from the world; they are the ones we hold for one another.

~MT

Brother Matthew Taheri was Raised in Paumanok (pronounced Paw-mih-knock) Port Washington Lodge No. 855 in Port Washington, New York. He has since relocated to Hillsborough No. 25 in beautiful Tampa, Florida where he enjoys spending time with his Brethren, tiki culture, laying out on the beach, and visiting Walt Disney World with disturbing frequency. Brother Taheri feels that familial edification is what differentiates Freemasonry from other very respectable organizations.

Being A Man: Free-Born

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Darin A. Lahners, PM


In the Entered Apprentice degree, one of the things that stood out to me was the following question and answer after you as the candidate first knock at the door of the preparation room to note your desire to become a Freemason. It is a question posed to the Junior Deacon by the Senior Deacon. The question is: “By what further rights and benefits does he expect to gain admission?” The answer is: “By being a man, free-born, of good report, and well recommended.” After the candidate enters the lodge room, the same question is asked by the Junior Warden, Senior Warden and Worshipful Master of the Senior Deacon. To be fair, the Worshipful Master asks it twice of the Senior Deacon. He answers it once at the altar when he reports the cause of the alarm on the door of the preparation room and another time when the candidate is being examined by the Worshipful Master, before being re-conducted to the West, where the Senior Warden teaches him to approach the East by one upright regular step.

The main reason that stuck with me was the term “free-born”. There’s a pretty simple answer to why it is still used in our ritual. To quote Chris Hodapp’s explanation of the term that he gives in his seminal work: Freemasonry for Dummies:
“The term “free-born” is a holdover from the days when slavery, indentured servitude, and bonding were common. It means that a man must be his own Master and not be bound to another man. That’s not a problem these days, but the language is retained because of its antiquity and a desire to retain the heritage of the Fraternity.”
However, in reading “A Lecture on Various Rituals of Freemasonry” by Rev George Oliver D.D., while he is explaining the Prestonian Entered Apprentice Lectures, I found another interesting explanation.

The third clause of the Prestonian Entered Apprentice Lecture as given by Oliver is as follows:

"Q. What kind of man ought a Free and Accepted Mason to be? 
A. A free man, born of a free woman, brother to kings and companion to princes, if Masons 
Q. Why Free? 
A. That the vicious habits of slavery might not contaminate the true principles on which Masonry is founded. 
Q. A second reason 
A. Because the Masons who were chosen to build King Solomon’s Temple were declared free, and exempted from all imposts, duties, and taxes. Afterward, when this temple had been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, the good-will of Cyrus gave them permission to erect a second temple, he having set them at liberty for that purpose. It is from this epoch that we bear the name of Free and Accepted Masons.

Q. Why brother to kings and companion to princes? 
A. A king in the Lodge, is reminded, that although a crown may adorn his head, and a scepter his hand, the blood in his veins is derived from the common parent of mankind, and is no better than that of the meanest subject. The statesman, the senator and the artist are there taught that, equally with others, they are, by nature, exposed to infirmity and disease; and that an unforeseen misfortune, or a disordered frame, may impair their faculties, and level them with the most ignorant of their species. This cheeks pride, and incites courtesy of behaviour. Men of inferior talents, who are not placed by fortune in such exalted stations, are instructed in the Lodge to regard their superiors with peculiar esteem; when they discover them voluntarily divested of the trappings of external grandeur, and condescending, in the badge of innocence and bond of friendship, to trace Wisdom, and follow virtue, assisted by those who are of a rank beneath them. Virtue is true nobility, and Wisdom is the channel by which Virtue is directed and conveyed; Wisdom and Virtue only mark distinction among Masons. 
Q. Whence originated the phrase – born of a free Woman? 
A. At the grand festival which was given by Abraham at the weaning of his son Isaac. Afterwards, when Sarah, the wife of Abraham, beheld Ishmael, the son of Hagar the Egyptian bondwoman, teasing and perplexing her son, she remonstrated Abraham, saying, Put away that bondswoman and her son, for such as they cannot inherit with the free-born. She spoke as being endowed with divine inspiration; well knowing, that if the lads were brought up together, Isaac might imbibe some of Ishmael’s slavish principles; it being universally acknowledged that the minds of slaves are much more contaminated than those of the free-born. 
Q. Why those equalities amongst Freemasons? 
A. We are all equal by our creation, but much more so by the strength of our obligation."
A few things stood out to me in the above. The first is that a man should be free so “That the vicious habits of slavery might not contaminate the true principles on which Masonry is founded.” To try to understand this, I took a look at the definitions of vicious and habits. One of the definitions of vicious is: “Having the nature of vice; evil, immoral, or depraved.” One of the definitions of habit is: “An established disposition of the mind or character.” This seems to point towards a belief at that time that slaves would be of immoral character.

This belief would seem to be backed up by the answer to the question which asks the origin of the term free woman.
”She spoke as being endowed with divine inspiration, well knowing that if the lads were brought up together, Isaac might imbibe some of Ishmael’s slavish principles; it being universally acknowledged that the minds of slaves are much more contaminated than those of the free-born.”
Why would it be universally acknowledged that the minds of slaves are much more contaminated than those of the free-born? I think it’s impossible for me to answer that as I am not from that time. I have to suspect that the answer that Chris Hodapp gave above, which is the idea that a slave would not be able to be his own Master, is most likely the closest answer that we could hope to find. It might also be worth mentioning that this might also be a remnant of the speculative craft coming from the operative one. For at the time, operative masons would not be willing to share the secrets of their craft with anyone who would not be able to protect them. A slave, bonds-man, or indentured servant could be ordered by their Master to give those secrets to them. Therefore, for the same reasons, speculative masons would not want anyone who would not be able to protect the secrets to be a member.

Looking at the last question: “Why those equalities amongst Freemasons?” The answer which is given: “We are all equal by our creation, but much more so by the strength of our obligation.” This answer is a moving tribute to the essential idea of our brotherhood that we are brothers due to our obligation. However, it also demonstrates why the idea of someone not being free-born would be detrimental to the craft. This becomes clearer in the fourth clause of Preston’s lectures with this question and answer.
Q. Since you brought no other recommendations, what came you here to do? 
A. Not my own will and pleasure, but to learn to rule and govern my passions, to be obedient to the Master’s will to keep a tongue of good report, to practise secrecy, and make further progress in the study of Freemasonry.
Oliver mentions that “This clause has been introduced to illustrate the subordination necessary to ensure the observance of strict discipline in the Lodge”. As Matthew 6:24 says: “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” So it would be impossible to be obedient to the Master of the Lodge, as well as the Master that owned you. In order to avoid potential disharmony in the Lodge, it would be essential that only free-born men would be able to join.

Regardless of the original reasons, we thankfully live in an age where this is no longer a concern. However, for our brethren that lived in a time that such abhorrent things were still practiced, it was a concern. I think part of the reason that it has remained in our ritual is as a reminder that we should not enter Freemasonry due to any mercenary motives. We are asked several times during our degrees if our reason for seeking Masonic advancement is of our own free will and accord. If it is was not, then you would not be free-born, even if you were born free. You would be joining for reasons other than those of your own volition. This is what our brethren from Preston’s time and before were trying to avoid by keeping those not free-born from the Fraternity.
~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.

When is a Man a Mason?

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Brian L. Pettice, 33˚


When I joined the Valley of Danville, Illinois, twenty-three years ago this past March 22nd, each member of my class was presented with a book—The Builders by Joseph Fort Newton. I’ve never read this book cover to cover, but I have read a good portion of it over the years, and I would say it has helped shape what I think of Freemasonry, and what it means to be a Freemason. Over the years, I’ve occasionally visited its pages to learn, to re-learn and reflect, and to reground myself when I’ve needed to.

This past month, our country, our communities, our fraternity, and, indeed, each of us entered a time of crisis. This change, for most of us, was relatively abrupt and shocking. Most of us hadn’t seriously thought about a crisis like COVID 19, nor how we would respond to it and the changes it has wrought. Crises often bring out both the best and worst in people. I know this because I’ve experienced crisis several times in my life, and I know that it brought out both the best and the worst in me and those experiencing it with me.

This crisis has proved no different. With no meetings to go to, I’ve felt a kind of Masonic lethargy. My time this spring mostly would have been filled with preparing for and learning and re-learning parts for different lodge and appendant body degrees. I feel relieved not having to do that, but learning and re-learning parts are also one of the ways that I immerse myself in reflection on the meaning of those specific parts and degrees. It is also how I meet with and connect with my Brethren.

Without any of that reflection and connection, I have felt my Masonic spirit atrophy. Worse, a lot of the time I would have spent in learning and reflection with my Brothers, I filled with time online and on Facebook. Don’t get me wrong; I think Facebook can be a fantastic way to communicate. I have seen it used by many people, organizations, and brethren to spread messages that are uplifting and feed our spirits—the best in people. Unfortunately, I have also seen it used by people, organizations, and even brethren to spread messages that lack truth, that denigrate and mock those with whom they disagree, that threaten violence, and that encourage the mindset that “others” are less than human—the worst in people. Worse than this though, is what witnessing this worst in others brings out in me. I have found myself feeling disdain towards others that post or like things I disagree with. I have found myself wanting to share that disdain—to meet adverse action with like adverse action rather than kindness. I knew I needed to make a change.

And so it was that I sat down to read a portion of The Builders this weekend. Unlike some other times that I opened this book, I didn’t really know what part of it I wanted to read. I knew I wanted to fill my mind with that that would uplift my soul and get me on the right track again, but I wasn’t sure where I would find that, so I decided to start at the beginning. I didn’t get far. I thumbed past the Title page and the contents and the list of illustrations and got to the Preface. There, the late Francis G. Paul, 33° (Past Sovereign Grand Commander of the NMJ and author of the Preface in my edition of the book), directs us to Newton’s essay, “When is a Man a Mason?” that concludes the book.
When I went there I found this:
"When is a man a Mason? When he can look out over the rivers, the hills, and the far horizon with a profound sense of his own littleness in the vast scheme of things, and yet have faith, hope, and courage-which is the root of every virtue. When he knows that down in his heart every man is as noble, as vile, as divine, as diabolic, and as lonely as himself, and seeks to know, to forgive, and to love his fellowman. When he knows how to sympathize with men in their sorrows, yea, even in their sins-knowing that each man fights a hard fight against many odds. When he has learned how to make friends and to keep them, and above all how to keep friends with himself. When he loves flowers, can hunt birds without a gun, and feels the thrill of an old forgotten joy when he hears the laugh of a little child. When he can be happy and high-minded amid the meaner drudgeries of life. When star-crowned trees and the glint of sunlight on flowing waters subdue him like the thought of one much loved and long dead. When no voice of distress reaches his ears in vain, and no hand seeks his aid without response. When he finds good in every faith that helps any man to lay hold of divine things and sees majestic meanings in life, whatever the name of that faith may be. When he can look into a wayside puddle and see something beyond mud, and into the face of the most forlorn fellow mortal and see something beyond sin. When he knows how to pray, how to love, how to hope. When he has kept faith with himself, with his fellowman, and with his God; in his hands a sword for evil, in his heart a bit of a song-glad to live, but not afraid to die! Such a man has found the only real secret of Masonry, and the one which it is trying to give to all the world."
This is a beautiful essay that deserves ample reflection, but one sentence really connected with me this evening.

When is a man a Mason? When he knows that down in his heart every man is as noble, as vile, as divine, as diabolic, and as lonely as himself, and seeks to know, to forgive, and to love his fellowman.

How often I forget this simple truth. I am, and we all are both the best and the worst, the noble and the vile, the divine, and the diabolic. Knowing this, my duty and purpose and reason for being a Mason is to continue to seek to know and to love and to forgive my fellow man. When I can do that when I can see the noble and divine in others, even when at their most vile and diabolic, I will be looking at them with divine eyes—seeing them the way God sees them—worthy of my kindness, respect, affection, and love. This is what I am pledged to do for my Brethren and all of Humanity. I hope my Brethren will look on me with the same forbearance.

~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 a 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.

Freemasonry In Action

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Calvin Compton 32°, KT


Action is everything. For by what else can a man be held accountable? Strip all circumstances from him, and what is left? His biology is inherited from his parents. The situation he was raised in is dependent upon the wealth of his family. The quality of his thoughts, to some degree, is circumstantial to the information he was given by teachers and his family. Even the matter of intellect is relative to the genes of his parents. A man has no choice whether he is born a genius, or naturally athletic. There is no decision whether the family he is born into is one of wealth and status. If we had such a choice, surely we would choose the best for ourselves. But it is the actions that we can take, that we are concerned with today—the opportunities for and of action.

I am sure that none of us would want to be held accountable for every thought that has passed through his mind, especially those that come in moments of anger or regret. But in those thoughts, there lies a choice, a choice of action or inaction. It is when we make a choice, and in turn, act on that choice that our thoughts become a physical manifestation and now have an effect on our reality. While it is a thought, it is ethereal and open to possibility; when action is taken, it becomes real and is manifested in reality. It is able to be observed by those around us. And we are now able to be affected by the consequences of those actions.

Do not be fooled into thinking speech is not an action; everything we say has an effect on those that hear it. It has the effect of shaping the opinions others may have about you and may affect the way they feel about themselves. We should be mindful of our thoughts-- that they will breed good speech and good action. As Entered Apprentices, we are charged with divesting our minds and consciences of all the vices and superfluities of life. In doing so, we remove the circumstantial thoughts and beliefs we have tied into our ego and create a new space within us, a place where pure thoughts can dwell, a place worthy of the presence of Deity.
To be a true master, man must be a master of himself-- in control of his thoughts, words, and actions. Man must think, speak, and act. But a Freemason must do these deliberately and always bear in mind how his actions affect those around him. Will it bring good consequences? Will it work to raise up another man, and bring him good as well, or is it self-serving and inconsiderate of the others living around him?

Freemasonry is not concerned with making a good man better, to stroke his ego and make him feel superior. It is to make him understand that stripped to our bare essence, we are all the same, and thus worthy of the same good treatment we would expect to receive ourselves.

We are all the same before Deity. It is for this reason we enter into the Lodge for the first time stripped to our bare essence. Your entrance into this Lodge is symbolic of the start of a new life, stripped away from the baggage to which we have previously attached ourselves, and left with a firm and level foundation upon which to build with the good actions we will now make. I believe it is our duty as Masons every day to remember to make a conscious choice and effort in the actions we make, so that they may be a benefit to your life, and to the lives of those around you.
~CC

Brother Calvin Compton is a 32° Scottish Rite Mason and Knight Templar living in Tulsa, Ok. He was raised in 2007 at Millenium Lodge No. 543 and currently sits as Junior Warden at Tulsa Lodge No. 71. When not involved in Masonic activities or working, Calvin enjoys spending his time with his wife and two children.

The 50 Year Member - Masonry: A Cut Above

by Midinght Freemason Conributor
Bill Hosler, PM


The little shop on Main Street seemed to be lost in time. The place hadn't changed since it was opened in 1946. The turquoise colored walls which were adorned with photographs, stuffed animal heads, and fish from various hunting and fishing trips had watched thousands of customers walk through the glass door over the decades. Each one with a smile and a greeting on their lips to the barber who was busy cutting the hair of another customer.

After he placed his hat on the rack near the door and took his place in one of the chairs in the waiting area. Some of the men would have a good chat with the other waiting customers or read the paper or an old fishing magazine lying next to the ashtray on the end table. They would laugh and joke and talk about their day to the nearby sound of the hair clippers. Once the customer paid for the cut to the tune of the bell ringing in an ancient cash register, the barber would sweep up the clippings of hair. After he put his broom and dustpan away, he would yell "NEXT," and the next man would step up while the barber cleans off his leather and chrome chair, each man knowing his place in the first-come, first-served line. Once the man had taken his seat in the old weathered barber chair, the barber would snap his cloth before draping over the customer and would start the process all over again.

Many times the barber wouldn't have to ask his customer how he wanted his hair cut. Chances are the man had been coming to the shop for decades and each time he got his haircut the same way he always had. It was sort of an unspoken agreement between the two men of "If it ain't broke don't fix it." As the barber picked up his clippers the conversation began. Usually about a recent ball game or a vacation or sometimes the discussion of current events. It is believed by man men who patronized this shop over the years that if the politicians had any sense they would come by and listen to what was said here since they had solved all over the world's problems many times over.

The turn of the doorknob sounded a bell on the door as the 50-year member opened the door of this time capsule to the past. The aging barber was alone in the shop and had fallen asleep in his barber chair while reading the newspaper. The peeling of the bell awakened him with a startle.

"Well, Hello, John! Come on in. Today's your lucky day, no wait today. Come on in and have a seat!" as he vacated his chair and motioned to him to come in.

As the old man made his way into the shop, he began to smile. The smell of hot shaving cream and hair tonics took him back to his childhood as he walked across the old creaking linoleum floor. If you tried hard, you could still detect the faint smell of the cigars that used to be smoked by the waiting customers. The old familiar smells of this place never failed his mind back to his childhood when his father took him into the shop for his first haircut.

After placing his hat on the metal hat rack, the old man took his place in the barber chair. He smiled, thinking about when he was a small boy, and the barber would place a wooden board across the armrests of the chair for the boy to sit on to be high enough to get his haircut.

The 50-year member knew the barber, Norm Becker, his whole life. The two men had gone to school together and after graduation both went their separate ways. Norm went to barber college and began to work with his father, who had started the shop after he returned from the war. Norm worked with his dad until the end of the 1980s when the elder barber passed away. Then the shop became Norms shop. The 50 year member went off to college and upon graduation came home and started a family. The two men joined the local lodge about the same time, and thanks to their time at the lodge together had rekindled their life long friendship.

Over the years, both men were active in Masonry. Both went through the chairs of the lodge and served "their year" as the lodge's Master". Since they left the East, both men continued to be active in the blue lodge and various other Masonic bodies. The two men could now joke how once they were once the young kids the old Past Masters would complain about and in a blink of an eye now they were the old crotchety ones sitting in the North of the lodge during the meetings.

"Same old cut as always, John, or are you going to mix things up a bit?" Norm said with a smirk. "Nah. Like you always say Norm. If it ain't broke don't fix it." "Well I wasn't sure." Norm said "Probably not a good idea anyway. You start changing your looks, the missus is gonna think you are like a Tomcat out on the prowl." They both laughed. Norm continued: "And we both know your heart or the rest of your body couldn't handle that." The old man smiled. "I think you are just trying to show me some of those fancy new haircuts you have been learning about for the kids that are coming in."

Norm continued to cut the silver hair of the 50-year member. "It's amazing isn't it! A few years ago I was thinking about retiring. The shop was getting just like lodge. I had fewer and fewer customers each year as they began to pass away. Then all of a sudden. These young kids.. well, I shouldn't call them kids. I remember how mad it used to make me when my dad used to do that when I was younger. But all of a sudden, these younger fellas started leaving the beauty shops and started to look for barbershops. They wanted to learn thing like their grandfathers did. That's about the same time the lodge started to get busy." The 50-year member smoked and was genuinely glad for his Brother's good fortune. "I have been surprised at how much these young men have enriched my life since they started joining the lodge. I have begun fond of several of them. They have taught me so much. They even make me feel a bit younger." Norm laughed, "Lord knows you needed that, you old fuddy-duddy." "Just by using the term fuddy-duddy shows you aren't no spring chicken yourself." The 50-year member said, with that type of sarcasm, that one can only get away with when talking with an old friend.

Norm continued, "They have really made me step up my game. I've had to start looking at all the barber magazines and learn all the new and trendy haircuts. I even started giving shaves again! I hadn't given a man an actual shave since the seventies. And they want it done with a straight razor, not a throwaway razor. I was scared to death the first couple of times. I really had to sharpen my skills again. Only one thing troubles me about the whole thing." "What's that?" The 50-year member asked.

Norm said, "Well like you said, I ain't no spring chicken. There is a young fella starting here next month when he finishes barber college. If he does a good job and he likes the work in a couple of years, I'm going to sell the shop to him and retire. So I'm set financially. But what I'm worried about is the lodge."

Norm continued, "For a long time, I have worried whether Masonry was gonna die with us. When these young fellas began joining a few years back, I breathed a sigh of relief. I thought for sure Masonry was gonna be fine, and the lodge and all the other groups were going to be fine, so fellas like you and I could take a step back and let them have their turn. But it seems like after we raise them, they never come back."

The barber further explained, "I'm working harder for the lodge than ever, but it doesn't seem like we are getting anywhere. I'm still worried about the Fraternity."

The 50-year member listened to his friend's concerns and asked him "Norm if one of those young men walked into this shop and asked for a certain type of haircut, and you told him the only haircuts you give was the cuts the guys liked in the '50s when your dad ran the shop, like flat tops and crew cuts, would they come back here?" Norm laughed. "I doubt it. Shoot I wouldn't even come in!"

The 50-year member then asked Norm "Well, if the guy came in and wanted a straight razor shave, would you tell him you wouldn't do it because you used to do it in the old days and then stopped and you won't do it now, even though so many guys came in and asked for it?"

" That would be financial suicide."

The 50-year member said: "Well, if it doesn't make sense here in your place of business, then why in the devil's name do we do it in Freemasonry? These young men come into the lodge and ask, or better yet beg for what we say in public Freemasonry delivers, and we either tell them no. We don't do that anymore, or we have been doing it this way since Brother Harry Truman was president. It doesn't matter what you want; it's what you're gonna get. Sit down and be quiet."

The 50-year member continued, "If we want Freemasonry to continue on after we're gone, we need to deliver what these young men expect and are begging for, or better yet what we tell these young people what Freemasonry does. If we do that, we're gonna be fine."

There was since in the shop. The background sound of a Frank Sinatra was almost drowned out by the buzz of the building's fluorescent lightning was almost deafening as the barber's hands dropped to his side as a stunned look came across his face. Norm, in astonishment said in a quiet voice, "You know. I never thought of it that way. We keep hearing them going on about how they want education or how they want fancy dinners or an elegant lodge room. I thought they were kinda like my kids were in their teens when they were always bellyaching about something. I never thought of them like young men who were voting with their feet, or like you said with their wallets. Why hasn't anyone else ever thought of this before?"

The 50-year member explained, "Oh, some have. There was even a book written by some young Masons who explained how if the Craft was run more like a business, we might be better off. But most of us old guys and many of us who wear the gold collars hear business and the automatic thing "profit" and think we are talking about running the Masons like General Motors and they shut their minds off. If they would bother to listen to their "customers," which are the due paying members

We wouldn't have a membership shortage. As a matter of fact, the numbers might even look like when we were youngsters."

Norm smiled as he looks the began to take the drape from his customer. "Well John, you convinced me. Well your done. That will be fifteen bucks please." The 50 year member looked at Norm "Fifteen? It's been ten bucks for years." Norm laughed. "Yep, and it's like you said we have to keep up with the times. Oh yeah, these young fellas tend to tip me along with the payment these days. "

The 50-year member reached into his wallet and handed Norm the money. As for your tip, How about I buy you a beer after lodge next week? I figure that's a safe bet. At your age you will have forgotten all about it but then." Norm laughed "Or you will and I will remind you that you said you would buy me two of them! Get out of here you tightwad!" The men were laughing as the 50-year member took his hat from the rack and walked into the street.

~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.

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is..."

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
SK Ernest (Ernie) Miranda

"Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!"
"It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments;
As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life forevermore."

Brethren, I consider myself to be a "Traveling Man" in Masonry. In speculative Masonry, we as Master Masons may freely move from Lodge to Lodge (visiting) and, upon proper avouchment or by testing, be found worthy of attending a Lodge of Master Masons. My job takes me to many locations domestically and internationally, and I do take advantage of this opportunity and visit lodges when able.

The one thing that is a constant within all the lodges I have visited, regardless of location, is the concern the brethren have regarding low attendance at the stated meetings.

I started this message with the passage above, that we are all very familiar with. This message that I impart on you is a part of a larger masonic education piece I have put together, but I wanted to share some of it with you at this time. My rationale for this is because the passage above is a good reminder of why it is so essential for us to take time to attend Lodge whenever possible.

"Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" – We each face daily challenges in our lives, and our body and mind require an opportunity to refresh and renew. What a blessing to have the opportunity that enables us to meet with others in an environment free of politics, personal status, issues of the outside world, etc.! Coming together to meet as equals for the common good.

"It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments;" – The "ointment or oil" was used for setting one apart from, and for blessing them in preparation of an upcoming task. Unity and fellowship are like anointing oil in someone's life. The physical and mental renewal and recharge that is experienced by attending Lodge and being with your brethren are all-encompassing for your body and mind, head to toe!

"As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion" – Just as the dew provides moisture and reinvigorates life as it descends to the lower elevations, so does brotherly love, descending from the higher to the lower, the passing of knowledge and strength, refreshing and enlivening in the course of the gathering, and the sweet diffusiveness of brotherly unity.

"for there the Lord commanded the blessing,"– The Great Architect with these words gives strength to support to perform that which is commanded. It is good, for the Great Architect calls it a blessing.

Finally, "even life forevermore." – Regeneration, which will never cease.

Brethren, ask yourself, "Why is it that you are not regularly attending stated meetings?" If you think that the Lodge doesn't miss you or that the Lodge is doing fine in your absence, remember the quote by Aristotle, "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts." When we connected, when we all come together in unity, imagine what we could do, rather than as smaller parts trying to accomplish the same.

If you need assistance in getting to Lodge, please let a Lodge member know, and we will find a way to get you here. If you require anything, let a Lodge member know. Brethren, look around in Lodge and look for those missing and reach out to them. Ask them if they need any assistance and arrange for a visit.

May the Great Architects blessings be with you and yours.

~EM

SK Ernest (Ernie) Miranda is a Freemason under the Grand Lodge of Arizona, belonging to White Mountain Lodge #3, and a member of Prometheus Lodge #87. He is also a member of Castle Island Virtual Lodge #190, Grand Lodge of Manitoba, Canada, and a founding member of Endeavour Virtual Lodge #944, Grand Lodge of Victoria, Australia. He is a member of the York Rite bodies, as well as a member of the York Rite Sovereign College. Also, he is a member of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, S.J., U.S.A., Valley of Tucson, where he is also a Knight of St. Andrew. Not to be left out, Brother Ernie is also a member of El Zaribah Shrine in Phoenix.

Brother Ernie is a husband and father of three sons. A third-generation miner, he works full time in the mining industry, specifically mining health and safety, and has volunteered much of his free time as a firefighter, E.M.T., and Search and Rescue Commander. He serves on the Board of Directors for "Wings on Words," a Child Language Center located in Tucson, Arizona, a not-for-profit community outreach program for children with speech/language disorders, in partnership with the Valley of Tucson Scottish Rite and the University of Arizona. In his off time, he enjoys astrophotography, home remodeling, and fishing. He also enjoys being a "Traveler," visiting other masonic lodges and attending masonic education conferences.

A Matthew 18:20 Lesson

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


I make a lot of Masonic presentations. A lot. It's always an honor that my Brethren think I can somehow enhance their Masonic experience with the things I talk about. I thoroughly enjoy researching Masonic topics of all kinds and condensing that material into something I can share.

Enjoyment aside, it's also a lot of work. Hard work. Putting a presentation together is much more than just researching facts and events and preparing to deliver them to the audience. Facts are facts, but facts in and of themselves can be mighty boring. So I am particularly aware of presenting those facts and events in an environment of graphics, color, action, music, and sometimes video. I try to hone each one to the point I think the audience, in spite of the speaker's shortcomings, will get something out of it, be able to remember what he saw and, yes, be entertained. Did I mention this is a lot of work? And time-consuming?

So imagine yourself putting in all that effort to speak at a gathering and walking in to find exactly six Brothers had shown up. It's happened to me and, take my word for it; it's discouraging. First, it makes a speaker wonder if all that hard work is worth it and, second, it terrifies me that membership and participation are sinking so fast that this is the best we can do.

At one point last year, it got so bad I was invited to speak at an open house to talk about Freemasonry in general. I had a hum-dinger of a talk ready to go and found I had prepared to speak to a crowd of… zero. Not one single person turned up to hear about the exciting world of Freemasonry.

To digress just a bit, Freemasons are good at a lot of things, but promotion, in general, is not one of them. Many times we go by the "if you build it, they will come" marketing philosophy. That worked in the movie "Field of Dreams," but it lays a big stink-bomb in real-world practice. In that particular open house, the full extent of the Master's promotion was to put a sign outside the Lodge announcing the event. And don't get me started on the guy who posts a single announcement on FaceBook and thinks he's a marketing genius.

Enough said about the highway of broken dreams that is Masonic promotion.

I know I'm not the only speaker who shows up to speak at a less than well-attended event. In fact, I've been in audiences where the Grand Master himself shows up to a disappointing turnout. In order to mitigate this kind of thing, I've considered saying I won't speak unless a Lodge can guarantee a certain number of attendees.

I've never done that, though. Even if the crowd is small, it doesn't change the importance of the message or the impact it will have on those present. We should take a lesson from Matthew 18:20, "whenever two or three are gathered…" in the name of our truth-seeking Craft, we should give it all we've got, just as if it was a crowd of two or three hundred.

Still, if you're putting an event together, put some effort into getting the word out. Here's an idea: I know of one group in my area that will plan an event, set a date, and get a commitment from 25 Brothers to attend before proceeding with the plans or inviting a speaker. I have spoken to this group. It's amazing how 25 guys can seem to fill a room, add to a discussion, and turn a disappointing evening into a meaningful one.

~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.

Is Freemasonry Essential?

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
RW Michael Jarzabek, Past Jr. Grand Warden


"Antifragility is a property of systems to thrive as a result of stressors, shocks, volatility, noise, mistakes, faults, attacks, or failures."
In an article in the SCRL Fraternal Review magazine, Brother Angel Millar asked whether Freemasonry was antifragile. If it is, this crisis will be perhaps the best test of its resiliency.

We often talk about great Masons. We often ask where the great Masons are today? When this is all over, will we have done our part? Is this the stage where those great men emerge? In this time of challenge, will we succumb to our base passions, rest on our laurels, or will we exemplify the values that we hold so dear?

General George Patton gave a speech to the Third Army, which may be extremely relevant to our current situation.

In the speech, he talked about all men doing their part, whether as truck drivers or telegraph maintenance specialists. Towards the end of the speech he said,
"Then there's one thing you men will be able to say when this war is over, and you get back home. Thirty years from now, when you're sitting by your fireside with your grandson on your knee, and he asks, 'What did you do in the great World War Two?' You won't have to cough and say, 'Well, your granddaddy shoveled shit in Louisiana.' No sir, you can look him straight in the eye and say 'Son, your granddaddy rode with the great Third Army and a son-of-a-goddamned-bitch named George Patton!'"
We are all proud to see RW Oscar Alleyne, Junior Grand Warden of NY, doing his part. We are aware of many others are doing their part as well. Many of us are deemed essential in one way or another.

The current global situation makes me wonder if Freemasonry is essential. By Freemasonry, I do not mean just the structure; I mean the way of life. I say it is essential, or at least that it should be.

Whether Freemasonry is essential or not isn't up to our elected leaders. It's up to us both individually and organizationally. What are we doing, or what can we do to make sure that we as Masons are doing our part?

Our state and federal leaders have provided us with lists of essential activities. "Freemasonry" isn't on them. Let that sink in for a minute. It may be the most important lesson we learn in our Masonic generation.

If we want to survive, we must stop being trivial. If we're going to thrive, we must do something essential. "Freemasonry" may not be on those lists, but there's plenty that is. Those lists aren't an imposition on our freedoms; they are an invitation to act. Make masks, host on-line fundraisers for foodbanks, help support those that are working overtime to provide essential services.

Whether we thrive is wholly dependent on whether we act. Thirty years from now, what will we be telling our grandsons as they sit on our knee? For me and I am sure many of you, it won't be that we shoveled shit in Louisiana. No sir, I want to look him straight in the eye and say I was a Freemason, and we did our part.

It is time to pick up our tools and get to work.

~MJ

R.W. Michael Jarzabek is a member of several Massachusetts lodges. He is a Past Master of Brigham Lodge in Ludlow. He is also a member of Ezekiel Bates Lodge in Attleboro, The Meadows Lodge in East Longmeadow, and The Massachusetts Lodge of Research. He is a Past Junior Grand Warden of The Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts. He is currently serving as Chairman of the Lodges of Instruction for the same Grand Lodge. He is a Past Thrice Potent Master of Evening Star Lodge of Perfection in Holyoke, Massachusetts.  He lives with his lovely wife, Beth, and beautiful daughter, Amelia, in Ludlow, Massachusetts. He works as an electrician.