Freemasonry's Obsession with Empty Chairs - Rewind

Originally published February 4th, 2015

by Midnight Freemasons Founder
Todd E. Creason33°
Here's a little known fact about Freemasons--they are obsessed with empty chairs.  You don't have to talk very long to just about any group of Masons, and the subject of all those empty chairs comes up.  "We've got to fill those empty chairs in our Lodges!" they'll exclaim.  The Blue Lodges are worried about empty chairs.  The Scottish Rite is worried about those empty chairs.  The York Rite is worried about empty chairs.  The Shrine.  Amaranth.  Order of the Eastern Star.  "We've got to fill those blessed empty chairs!"

Grand Lodges come up with plans to increase membership.  Here in Illinois, just since I've been a Mason we've had several different ideas about how to fill those chairs.  We went from 2B1ASK1 to being able to ask somebody if they'd like to join our Fraternity.  We still have empty chairs.  One of our Grand Masters, a good friend of mine, had a great plan.  Every member should add a member to their Blue Lodge.  He was known to always have petitions in his pocket.  We did add members, but we still have empty chairs.  My York Rite Chapter back when I joined came up with a magic number of new members they'd like to add that year, and they worked tirelessly, putting on degrees, and putting guys through the Chapter.  They added a large number of new members.  I was one of those guys that went through then.  Guess what?  They still have empty chairs!

The problem is, we're asking the wrong question.  The question isn't how can we fill those chairs--the question is why are those chairs empty to begin with?
When I joined the Lodge, it was because I was looking for something.  I wanted to improve myself.  I wanted to learn new things.  I wanted to gain new skills.  I wanted to be more active in my community.  I wanted to be a part of something traditional and something ancient.  In an ever changing world, I wanted something in my life that remained steady and consistent.  And I've found all those things, but not entirely within the walls of my Lodge.  Much of what I've gained has been through my own explorations and studies into the Craft.  If it hadn't been for my own initiative I'm not sure I would have found that greater meaning that makes my Lodge attendance and participation so fulfilling.

Our chairs are empty because so many of our Lodges have gotten so involved with the business of Freemasonry, they've forgotten the purpose of the Craft--to make good men better by constantly working to improve ourselves.  We spend so much time reading minutes, and reciting committee reports, we forget that we're supposed to be learning something as well.  The expectation of our membership versus the reality of our meetings is the reason so many of our chairs are empty.

The world is a busy place, and very few men are willing to waste a couple hours of their time once or twice a month to sit through a meeting when the only thing they might learn in that meeting is that the Lodge's building insurance went up 8% from last year, and somebody needs to make sure we have enough pancake mix by Saturday's breakfast.
There's no sense in worrying about how to fill those chairs in your Lodge if you aren't willing to figure out why they are empty to begin with.  We must do better.  Like it was said in that famous movie "Field of Dreams"-- if you build it they will come.  Your Lodge will start seeing fewer and fewer empty chairs when you start giving your members, old and new, the thing we promised them in the beginning.



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

It's the End of the World as We Know It

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners

"It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" is a song by the American rock band R.E.M., from Athens, Georgia, which first appeared on their 1987 album Document. The song's satirical title pretty much sums up my current state of mind, as I live in my own version of the movie "Groundhog's Day." I don't feel fine. I miss going to lodge, I miss going to degrees, and I miss the fellowship I share with the Brothers in the Lodges that I belong to, and being able to hang out with those Brothers outside of the Lodge.

Honestly, the last thing I wanted to do is write another Covid-19 related article. However, after sheltering in place for the past 2 months, and witnessing how brethren have reacted to it, I've made some observations. They are outlined below.

As a disclaimer, the opinions below are my own and do not reflect the opinions of the Grand Lodge of Illinois, any other of the contributors to the Midnight Freemasons blog, nor any of the lodges or concordant bodies that I belong to. Now that is out of the way, here are my observations.

1. Online meetings will never replace the real thing, but there are things we are doing online currently that we should keep doing after this is over.

One thing that has amazed me during the pandemic is the absolute number of opportunities for virtual Masonic education and fellowship.

Alex Powers of the "Historical Light" Podcast, Various members of the Refracted Light and Winding Staircase Facebook groups, Jared Stanley of the "What is a Mason?" podcast, RJ Johnson of the "Whence Came You" podcast, and many others have provided these opportunities.

Many of the appendant governing bodies like the S.J. and N.M.J. of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite have risen to the challenge, providing online degrees and educational presentations as well. I certainly hope that these do not end once we are back to whatever the new normal is going to be.

Another thing that I've observed is that some of the more mundane aspects of a Lodge's stated meeting can be handled virtually. Do we really need to continue to have committee reports, meeting minutes, bills, finances, new and old business discussed at length in a meeting? Many of the lodges I belong to were already sending out the minutes and financial information to its members prior to the meetings via email, and if there were no objections or corrections from the members present, the Master was approving them as read. This should be expanded to include committee reports, as well as old and new business items. Let me provide an example of how I see the handling of the committee reports, old and new business being handled virtually before some of you grump past masters out there blow a gasket.

For committee reports, I think this is a given. There is no reason to have a committee report read in open Lodge. The reports, like the minutes and financials, can be disseminated to the membership prior to the meeting. Questions regarding the reports can be answered by the committee prior to the meeting. If an item requires a vote, then the vote will need to take place in the meeting; however, the item itself could be referenced briefly and voted upon. For old and new business, I see a similar process.
Here's an example of business that came up at the last meeting of one of my lodges prior to the shelter in place order. We have been sponsoring a little league team as a Lodge. The sponsorship costs X amount of dollars. We get to pick the color of the shirt the team wears, and we can put a logo on it. We've gone with the square and compass in the past, along with our Lodge name. One of our members asked that we get a schedule of games so that we can, as a Lodge, have an outing. We can pick a single game or a few games, and go and see the team we sponsor play and root them on. The item would require a vote of the membership to sponsor the team or not sponsor them. Other than the vote, every other item of the business could be disseminated to the membership, any questions about it asked in return to the one bringing up the item, the question answered, and then the item being referenced in the stated meeting and being voted on. Will it completely reduce old and new business? Absolutely not.

But it can help streamline the meetings. The time that is saved by streamlining the meetings can be used for education or fellowship opportunities. If you could have a boring two – three hour stated meeting or a 20 minute stated meeting followed by a festive board at a local restaurant with an educational speaker, which would you choose? I would hope it would be the latter.

2. Remember that you don't stop being a Freemason outside of Lodge.

While on the subject of boredom, I get it. You're stuck inside, bored, and the lowest common denominator of entertainment is to scroll through your social media feeds and comment on everyone's social media posts. That's your right, although I would argue, trying to learn some new ritual is a better use of your time. What has really disturbed me recently is the number of brethren that I have seen that have been critical in social media of the actions of the government at the Federal and/or State level in their handling of the crisis usually due to their political leanings. While I understand that you're entitled to your freedom of speech, I also remind you of something that is in the charge to the Entered Apprentice, at least here in Illinois:
"As a citizen, you are enjoined to be exemplary in the discharge of your civil duties, by never purposing or countenancing any act which may have a tendency to subvert the peace and good order of society; by paying due obedience to the laws under whose protection you live, and by never losing sight of the allegiance due to your country."
I don't understand why it's so difficult for someone who is a Freemason to realize that they are not just a Freemason while in Lodge. Can we stop ourselves from posting on social media about Politics and/or Religion, or worse? Most of us are guilty of posting something we regret at one time or another. We've seen something that we disagree with from our point of view, and we feel the need to engage in an online debate about how our side is correct and your side isn't. In my experience, it never ends well. Someone is going to be offended and/or angry because social media isn't a place where you are able to have a civil conversation about these topics. Mob mentality usually takes hold, passions are enflamed, and things are written, which will remain somewhere in cyberspace forever. These are things that usually aren't very intelligent and do not help portray the Craft in a positive light.

I continue to read posts from a certain number of Brothers, many of whom I've heard say things like: "I never speed because of the square and compass on my car," but seem to forget that they represent that same square and compass in their social media posts while criticizing the insanity of a political ideology that they don't agree with. I understand that you're "outside of the Lodge room," but you're also representing the ideals of political and religious tolerance that we pride ourselves upon by wearing that square and compass on the hat you're wearing in your profile picture.

Many of the jurisdictions already have social media codes of conduct or rules in place that can end up in Masonic discipline for those that continue to violate them; however, many jurisdictions do not. While I know many of you might not agree with such policies, it's obvious to me that they have been put in place because a majority of brethren are unable to subdue their passions online. Don't put your Grand Lodge in the position of having to police you. If you're afraid of speeding because you don't want to portray the Craft in a negative light, remember that your words on social media are immortalized. Not only can your "friends" or if you don't have security set up properly on your social media, "the profane" can read them, and your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, etc. will be able to view them. Remember the answer that the Senior Warden gives to the Worshipful Master when opening on the 1st degree to the question: "What came you here to do?" The answer: "To learn to subdue my passions and improve myself in Masonry." Practice some restraint.

3. It is time to reconsider the ban on alcohol in the lodge building.

Speaking of restraint, at the beginning of this mess, some brethren from UGLE (United Grand Lodge of England) revived a tradition of the 9 o'clock toast to absent brethren. They accomplished this by communicating via various social media and online platforms and invited brethren from all of the world to join in. Every Brother that I have seen participate has handled themselves with the proper decorum fitting of a Freemason. This made me think that if we can do this virtually, then why shouldn't we be able to do this person once we start to meet again?

I want to be very clear. I'm not advocating for alcohol to be present in the Lodge room under any circumstance. However, I see no reason why brethren should not be able to enjoy an alcoholic beverage outside of the Lodge room in the lodge building. If some Brothers want to retreat to the dining room for a nightcap, why should we not let them? If some of them want to go outside on a lodge patio and enjoy a cigar and scotch, it should be allowed. Many of our brethren across the pond in UGLE have bars in their Lodge buildings. While doing so might require additional insurance, liquor licenses, brothers to keep track of tabs, some auditing process to make sure that money is properly accounted for, keeping an accounting of inventory, having a bartender, etc.; if a lodge wants to and is able to do so financially, I see no reason why they shouldn't be allowed to given that the proper local/state laws are followed.

I think it can be done respectfully enough to allow those that want to participate to be able to do so while not infringing on those who do not want to. Once again, we need to act with enough self-governance to not turn the means of refreshment into intemperance or excess, but we should be able to enjoy fellowship over an adult beverage if we so desire. If we truly are "Good Men," then the various Grand Lodges which are prohibiting alcohol on individual lodge property should trust us to behave as such. If we are truly gentlemen, treat us as such.

4. It is time to enforce a dress code for stated meetings/degrees.

Part of being a gentleman is dressing like one. I don't know about you, but I've spent enough time in athletic and or sweatpants during this isolation. I am looking forward to the opportunity to dress up again. The meetings/degrees that we are having should be treated as events. We need to set an example for those coming into the Craft, the community at large, as well as a respect for each other and the Craft by dressing like gentlemen.

Obviously, there will always be exceptions to the rule (for example, a Hawaiian or tropical shirt theme night at the Lodge), however the more that we slack off and allow sweatpants, shorts, tank tops, t-shirts in Lodge, the further we slide into irrelevance. Let's act like we care enough about Freemasonry to at the very least dress in business casual with a collared shirt and slacks, and in my opinion, in a suit and tie at the bare minimum. If we want to maintain our traditions, let's be somewhat traditional. We need to start enforcing a dress code for our meetings and degrees, or at the very least whisper wise counsel into a Brother's ear about his dress of cutoff jean shorts and a tank top at the District Deputy Grand Master's official visit or officer's installation. If you don't have a suit or the means to buy one, talk to your Worshipful Master. Don't be embarrassed. I'm sure that your brethren will gladly contribute to getting you looking dapper in no time.

Coming out of this, we are presented with a real opportunity to reshape our Lodges the way that we see fit. While some of my views might seem elitist, and I suppose that they are. We are going to be living a new normal shortly until there is a vaccine or wide-spread testing. As we adjust to whatever this new normal is, use it as an opportunity to improve the Craft at your local Lodge. As we are going to have to change the way we have been conducting our work, we need to think about what changes we can make in order to make our experience not only memorable but unique.

Therefore, I present some other suggestions to improve the Craft. Many of these are suggestions come from the works of the Knights of the North, namely in their work, Laudable Pursuit ( If you've not read it, please click on the link, download the pdf and do so. I'm not going to address every point, but I will list them below. 
1. Slow down the degree process.
2. Only have one candidate per degree.
3. Thoroughly vet our candidates.
4. Start cherishing our time together as brothers and engage in fellowship outside of the Lodge.
5. Start embracing some of our traditions like using a chamber of reflection before degrees, use of ambient lighting or candlelight, burning incense prior to the meeting, using music during our meetings and degrees in order to make the lodge/degree experience truly an experience.
6. Embrace masonic education, including not being afraid of talking about esoteric topics.
7. Start practicing masonic charity towards our brethren, their widows, and orphans instead of the local P.T.A. or little league team.
8. Allow men that have non-traditional or eastern religious beliefs but have belief in a supreme being to be accepted into our Craft.

I hope that you try to implement some of the ideas I've put forth. Freemasonry can only be impacted or changed at the local level, at your Lodge. It just takes some brethren to not be afraid to try something new. Let's come back stronger and better than before. If we are truly trying to make good men better, then shouldn't we be trying to make the organization that we are using to do this better as well?


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

We Owe Them Our Best - Eternity Through Remembrance

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson

Every year at the Midnight Freemasons, we put up a new article on Memorial Day. We’ve covered a lot over the last decade. We’ve talked about POWs & MIA, we’ve talked about being reflective and about those we’ve lost. I didn’t know what we were going to do for the blog this year. I woke up one recent morning and realized that Memorial Day was upon us, and I didn’t have anything for the blog. I sat that there for just a minute when the notion wandered into my head.

As we progress in Masonry and in our humanity—our perspectives progress too. When I was a kid, Memorial Day meant that the Friday before the three day weekend was an easy school day. Color a picture of the flag in grammar school, write a letter to a widow/widower in high school, and in my twenties? Nothing. Like a “lost boy”, from Neverland, just like that—I had forgotten.

You would think with a family history of Naval service I wouldn’t forget, but I did. At best, I was apathetic, I think many are. Then, Freemasonry happened to me. I was 27 years old with a good education, a solid job, and a budding family. Freemasonry has a large basis in civic engagement, in the transformation of the consciousness of a person, and hopefully, the uplifting of the human condition. This transformative art, so well exemplified in our degrees DID change my thinking. It woke the sleeper—I remembered.
“My family is with me today. They wanted to come with me. To be honest with you, I wasn't sure how I'd feel coming back here. Every day I think about what you said to me that day on the bridge. And I've tried to live my life the best I could. I hope that was enough. I hope that at least in your eyes, I've earned what all of you have done for me.    -James Ryan at Captain Miller's grave.
I think we all know it isn’t about the barbeque, or the day off of work or school. The ancients didn’t know if our consciousness was in our head (the brain) or in our hearts. I tell you it has got to be at least, a little of both. Because at the center of it all, it’s about giving and those who gave so we could continue on, and maybe, just maybe, through the sacrifice, our lives and our children’s lives would be better.

For the men and women who serve the cause of protecting Freedom, Liberty, and Justice—sacrifice means something a little different. It means they might not come home. It means they hope against hope in the direst of circumstances that it won’t come down to the last stand—but also knowing it might and that they are ready to stare death in the face to protect the rest of us.

So Memorial Day is about the gift. The gift of corporeal endowment—of remitting a body and conscious experience in the trade, for us all to enjoy the greatest freedoms, and also the most basic qualities of life. Is there anything else more stoic? More honorable? More deserving of a place within our minds, where they might live on forever?

I'd like to call to your attention, to a document. Likey you haven't read it since the last time you were made to. As we age, we tend to read things differently. Instead of just stringing words together, we understand--like a new language somehow unfolded before our very eyes, thanks to some unknown force. That document I am referring to is something very special, something I can never read allowed without choking up. The Gettysburg Address. I leave you now with the final paragraph. I challenge you to see it, to feel it, and to understand it.
"It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." - President Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address, November 19th, 1863

They gave—let us remember.


RWB 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 focuses on topics relating to Freemasonry. He is also a co-host of The Masonic Roundtable, a Masonic talk show. He is a husband and father of four, works full time in the executive medical industry. He is the co-author of "It's Business Time - Adapting a Corporate Path for Freemasonry" and is currently working on a book of Masonic essays and one on Occult Anatomy to be released soon.

The Precision of the Chisel

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Brother Erik Marks

"As the keen edge of the chisel is accurately shaped to cut the stone, it impresses upon the apprentice's mind that knowledge is essential in all activities." -WM Don Falconer, Masonic Essays' 98.
When I was entered into the fraternity, I was overwhelmed with information. I loved, and still do, being saturated with lots of new ideas.

Not long after, as the stone dust settled, I began to wonder how we shaped stone with just a gavel. I took it on faith, "that's the way we do things," and set the idea aside to learn the instruction set before me, but the question lingered in my mind. My brief thoughts here are not meant to be an exhaustive examination of the Chisel, rather it's a summary of some of my contemplations to date about my attempt to integrate greater precision into my life and masonic work. I'll include links embedded in the text to the original sources where available.

Last year, I was introduced to The Way of the Craftsman by W. Kirk MacNulty, and the question was re-awakened, but with answers. Part of what is so appealing to me about MacNulty's analysis and ideas is their basis in spirituality and Jungian psychology.
The chisel "…is said to be of exquisite sharpness and to be related to education. From this symbolism, we can infer that the Chisel represents the psychological functions of thought process: the analysis, classification, communication, storage, retrieval, sorting, and presentation of data." P. 109
In this passage, MacNulty refers to some aspects of what Jung calls ego functions. Ego, in Jung's schema, is a psychological structure of waking or conscious mind. The structures that pertain to the two unconscious realms of the psyche, personal and collective unconscious, are complexes and archetypes, respectively. Executive functions allow us to live and thrive in adulthood. They are integrated into, and go beyond, the physical power of the body, balancing and channeling the "passion" or power of the body into pro-social, constructive movements in the world.

The Chisel, as I've learned, is the third of the tools in the British Emulation degrees. In that system, there are three tools in each degree, corresponding to the three pillars of the temple. MacNulty teaches us about the balance of the three pillars: active, passive, and mediating.

This, he tells us, is the rule of three, as exemplified in Beauty (passive), Strength (active), and Wisdom (mediating). They are the three columns present through each of the stories of the temple.
"As the stonemason uses the hammer and chisel to shape the rock into the building block, so the Freemason must refine himself, chipping away at his bad habits, weaknesses, and personal shortcomings." Millar, The three stages of initiatic spirituality, P. 16.
With this understanding, the Chisel completes the bio-psycho-spiritual set of tools. It is charged with the task of education and precision, as is needed in making the work beautiful. As such, it refers not primarily ornamentation, though that is important as well and decorative. It is an implicit beauty, precision, of having the sides of the stone be perfected. The pure strength of the gavel may indeed cleave the rough edges, but we could consider the additional tool to sublimate the Strength into perfection is that of precision, Beauty, education, a maturing ego, and executive functioning.

This idea does not diminish in any way the Strength of the gavel. The Chisel without force is as misguided and ineffectual as a force without direction. Here we return to the opening pages of Pike's magnum opus. 
"Force must be limited, restrained, conveyed by distribution into different channels, and by roundabout courses, to outlets, whence it is to issue as the law, action, and decision…" Pike, Albert. Morals and Dogma (Illustrated) (p. 9). Global Grey. Kindle Edition. 
Though here, Pike speaks of the populace's force and the need for precision and restrained by channeling, it is the same principle of acting with intentionality.

Channeling the force of the gavel through the Chisel allows for increased precision of what is to be removed from the stone.

Since I've been working with the idea of the Chisel, I've been thinking about how to operationalize and apply it in daily life. The gavel and gauge I use for the bigger tasks: keeping to healthy eating and regular exercise. The more persistent, more complicated tasks require the Chisel. That being said, the reasons I don't eat well and refuse to exercise may also require a closer, chisel, examination. People around me have been reminding me of my negative first response (I'll call it NFR) to things. It's closed-minded and reflexive, not very masonic. So Chisel would be the proper tool for this tenacious character flaw.

How will you use it, I imagine you are asking? That is the question. Though our metaphor implies a chipping off of the habit, vice, flaw, its not so easy, right?

One of the Chisel's meanings is education. Even though I assume I know myself well and that I have an explanation for this flaw, I clearly need more information. Further education is needed about my inner workings to bring about change. Why the negative first response, Erik? That is a chisel question. I'm now faced with looking more deeply, so I sit still. I take some time to ground and focus, meditating for five to ten minutes before "getting out the chisel." I know I will need to remove some additional material on the stone before I find the secret. That additional stone is sometimes referred to as defenses or defensiveness. I may not like what I see; it may bother me to learn more, so I need to chip away at those thoughtfully to not miss any details.

Next, I call up an event from the past. The event needs to be recent enough to be relevant and for me feel inner resistance, yet old enough to have lost some of its sting that keeps me defended. Chip away at the layers. I begin to recognize there are assumptions I make about people and situations and my internal responses to them. The thought of the circumstances brings up related emotions and thoughts so quickly I move almost instantaneously to a reaction: don't go (to "x" event). After more chipping (time in self-reflection) of this type, I arrive at the problematic rough patches in the form of thoughts, to smooth down: "they won't like me …they'll discount what I have to say because I haven't been a mason very long or because I don't have masonic credentials to speak of… I'll get nervous and sound dumb…my thoughts will leave me, and I can't be of help." That last one is the worst.

Now for the smoothing.

Identifying the rough patch with the Chisel is not enough, now I need to do something with it. How do you smooth out these patches? On the surface (intended), it seems easy, right? You say: "Just don't think that way." For some, it may be that easy, just delete the thoughts, for most of us, it's not. The thoughts, feelings, and behavioral loops are built on layers of conditioning, assumptions, experiences, beliefs, long-repeated stories we've told ourselves in secret inner chambers never to be shown the light. Chisel uncovers those rooms and opens them to the light. This is where precision comes in, and with it, the repetitive application we could call chipping or the action of chiseling.

Because men aren't stone, our processes are organic, stored in multiple recesses of our psycho-physiology, our minds and bodies as one unit, and therefore prone to re-propagate themselves in times of distress: when excrement impacts the air circulation system, we revert to well-worn neural grooves, neuronal pathways, created over decades of reinforcement. For me, most effective way to implement the Chisel at this point is to: 1) acknowledge the flaw and accept is part of me for now; 2) look for the problem in daily life (gauge it); 3) look for the cues it is about to happen (Wisdom); and 4) restrain its occurrence when you feel the urge to engage (gavel and Chisel).

So, what does that look like? I write the instruction on my inner trestle board: be on the lookout for NFR and work to chip it off when it shows up. I allow myself to be reminded of the process I went through to find the basis of the NFR and of my plan. When it comes up: "Hey Erik, would you speak at LOI?"… Pause … "chisel please"… Pause, deep breath, chip, note the pattern, a little more gavel, remember this is a brother asking …chisel… Reply: "of course, I'd be honored."

This then brings me to the discernment, the rule of Wisdom in the first degree being the gauge.

Using the gauge, the craftsman knows where to strike, with the force of the gavel channeled through the precision of the Chisel. Beauty and Strength guided by Wisdom. I spoke with Mike Grubbs, a brother and new friend, a few days ago who taught me that a symptom he experiences, hypervigilance (constant scanning of the environment for danger), has been re-shaped to a strength; I would say, like a superpower. He calls it "Enhanced Threat Detection." I like this idea so much I've started using the phrase and concept with people who would like that language, too. This is his very personal way of chiseling an aspect of self into an asset. He used Wisdom and discernment to keep the part of his ashlar he deemed useful in his life, even if others might see it as a flaw or "symptom." He measured what was needed and chiseled away the rest.

Right Worshipful Cholka[i] reminds us the common gavel holds the function of conscience and instructs that use of the Chisel is utilized to make the "fine adjustments to our character." Again, in this reading, I find the gavel keeps us from the larger errors in life where the Chisel, through "discipline and perseverance," allows for the slow and painstaking task of changing the more nuanced aspects of character. I see and work with this process daily, in myself and the people I serve.

Of note, while preparing for this post about the Chisel I had the opportunity to have a text chat with Right Worshipful Brother Cholka who suspected the Chisel was dropped from the EA degree in 1832; His understanding may have been confirmed in my subsequent reading a Short Talk Bulletin[ii] where in that year the "Baltimore Convention changed many key practices of U. S. Masonry due to the anti-Masonic sentiments caused by the Morgan Affair."

Much of the power in Freemasonry is that it causes us to be exposed to new ideas, ways of thinking, and people with diverse opinions.

We are then asked to think for ourselves within a rich philosophic and spiritual structure. Finally, we are instructed to use the structure and the truths to which we are exposed to examine ourselves, challenge our assumptions. Then, we could elect the use of the Chisel in our work to change the things we find flawed in ourselves as a way of effecting the larger world.

Living apprenticeship allows us to always be at the beginning of our journey, to remain curious about new ideas, and willing to learn. Every time we open on the first degree, I find a reminder of the need to return to the beginning and be open. Though it is highly unlikely we will add the Chisel back to the American EA degree; its symbolic meaning can be adapted to any pursuit, in or outside masonry. We are educated to be precise with our words, thoughts, and actions. The precision of the Chisel is an underutilized metaphor readily available for your consideration.


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

The Importance of Being A Role Model - Revisit

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners

*Editors Note* Originally published in 2018 here on the Midnight Freemasons Blog, I thought with a recent publication in the Fraternal Review, I would republish it here. It was read on the WCY Podcast as well in April of 2020, episode 442. It has a lot to say about mentorship--so relevant for right now when people need people, more than ever. I hope you enjoy.

Todd Creason recently wrote a wonderful article about the importance of having a good reputation. You can find it here: What he said below really got me thinking:
"Men of good reputation and solid character used to be more common than they are today. We don’t teach the value of it anymore. Our society is so focused inward on ourselves, and our own selfish needs. We are a society of grown children, fighting and arguing on social media just like children used to fight and argue on the playground. We’ve never grown up and become men because we haven’t had the role-models. And just like children, we don’t think about what we’re saying, and we don’t think about what our words and actions are saying about us."
It made me think about a few quotes from one of my favorite books (and later Movie):
“I see in the fight club the strongest and smartest men who've ever lived. I see all this potential and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables, slaves with white collars, advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need. We're the middle children of the history man, no purpose or place, we have no Great war, no Great depression, our great war is a spiritual war, our great depression is our lives, we've been all raised by television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires and movie gods and rock stars, but we won't and we're slowly learning that fact and we're very very pissed off.”
“We’re a generation of men raised by women. I’m wondering if another woman is really the answer we need.”- Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club
Our role-models have been TV stars, movie stars, rock stars, and sports stars. We’ve been raised through television. I was what was called a latch key kid. Mom and Dad both worked, so I’d get off the school bus, walk home, turn on the television. It was my babysitter. With the advent of cable television in the early to mid-1980s, I would watch MTV. I would see images of rock stars behaving like children. There were videos with drinking, partying too excess. The sexual exploitation of both women and men was rampant. I was lucky enough to understand at a young age that it was just fantasy, but still, I wonder what type of effect it had. 

I was, and still am lucky enough to have both parents. But many of my friends come from broken homes, where mom or dad was left to work 2 or 3 jobs. Mom or Dad was absent. In most cases, (84% were raised by single moms). A large percentage of our teachers were female also. I went to a Catholic Grade School, so from k-8, I had no male teachers. The first male teacher I had was in High School. I didn’t really have any male role-models to look to. Also, my dad didn’t want to play with my brother and me after work. He wanted to come home, have a few beers and unwind. I love my Dad, and I don’t fault him for that, plus he probably had a hard time relating to me. Although he was a role-model, I liked things he didn’t understand. I used to go to a place in Bradley IL, called Castle Hobbies. I’d meet my friends there and we’d play Dungeons and Dragons, or Warhammer 40K, and other various miniature or role-playing games that were being played. My Dad didn’t understand the point of it all. He’d tell me this on many occasions. I think that he understood that I was off the streets, and not spending the money I had on drugs or alcohol. Although he did wonder why I was spending it on polyhedral dice.

My generation has been bombarded with 40 to 50 plus years of targeted advertising that teaches happiness = stuff. We are conditioned to believe that success is a measurement of what you own, not who you are. The size of your house, the clothes you wear, and the type of car you drive are all indications of how ‘Successful’ you are. We’ve been taught to consume, consume, consume. As Fight Club asks: “Do you know what a duvet is? It’s a blanket. Just a blanket. Now why do guys like you and me know what a duvet is? Is this essential to our survival, in the hunter-gatherer sense of the word? No. What are we then? We are consumers. We’re the byproducts of a lifestyle obsession.” Couple this with many of us not having a real male role-model growing up. Is it any wonder we’re all angry and selfish children?

I was lucky to have some male role-models in Scouting. They coupled with my Dad’s apathy towards volunteering made me want to be a volunteer soccer coach for my son’s teams, and also to be a Scout Leader. It was through Scouting that I met fellow Midnight Freemason Greg Knott. Greg Knott often jokes about him giving me 'Structure'. But he's not half wrong. Freemasonry came along for me when I was at cross-roads. You see, I was one of those selfish grown children that Todd referenced. I won’t get into details, but Greg saw something untapped in me that I didn’t recognize. He saw potential. He reached out to me. He told me about how Freemasonry promotes many of Scouting’s ideals. He helped to set me on a path that has changed my life forever. It was through Greg that I met Todd Creason. I slowly got more involved in helping them both with their mission to restore Homer Lodge #199. They both have become not just great mentors, but really good friends. All because Greg took a chance on me.

There has long been a notion within Freemasonry that ‘We make good men better!’ I would argue that this is false. First of all, we’re not just accepting good men. Every year at Grand Lodge when the role-call of Brothers being expelled for committing a felony is read, I’m reminded that we need to do a better job of guarding the West Gate. Secondly, we hardly go out of our way to make men better. How many times do we bring in a candidate only to have him attend Lodge a few times, and then never return? Now, I will say some of this is on the individual brother, but most of it is on us. You see we are failing each other even in Lodge. The idea of making someone better implies that someone is doing the teaching.

Like I stated, I was lucky. I had a Masonic role-model to emulate when I joined the Lodge. But not everyone is as lucky. We as Masons also need role-models. Now I’m sure if you’re reading this article, you can probably think immediately who you consider a Masonic Mentor or role-model. If you’re like me, you have several. But are you a mentor or role–model to someone else? Are you going out of your way to make new brothers feel welcomed, are you helping them with ritual, are you answering their questions as they come up? You see, we have an untapped market of men that we can reach. There are now a few generations of men that would benefit from having a role–model. We need to step up to the task.

How do we do this? I think it’s pretty simple really.

1. Guard the West Gate. We need to admit men that are going to actively participate in Freemasonry. Admitting everyone who has a pulse isn’t going to help our issues. We’re just going to spend more time chasing after late dues payments. Identify good men and make them your priority.

2. Stress Education. We need to structure our business meetings around Education. Get good speakers from the community (Masonic and otherwise) to address topics that men care about. Eliminate the waste from the business meetings. Bills can be auto-deducted, the Treasurers report can be emailed, as can the Secretaries Minutes and Announcements. Cut out what you can and keep only the essentials.

3. Be an exemplar. Let your actions speak louder than your words. Don’t engage in things that could soil your reputation or that of the Fraternity. Especially on Social Media.

4. Be a Mentor. Take new members under your wings. Meet with them outside of Lodge, address their questions and concerns. Listen to their ideas.

5. Teach others how to do be a Mentor. This is self-explanatory. Pay it forward. Teach the men you mentor how to be mentors.

6. Do things outside the Lodge as a group. Last, but certainly not least, organize fun events for your members and their families. The events can be informal or formal.

Look, it’s going to take a tremendous amount of effort to get to where we need to be. It might not even happen in my lifetime. I believe in this Fraternity. I believe that we all can make the world a better place for ourselves and our families. Yes, it’s going to take work. We all need to pitch in. We should be able to project ourselves as role–models and give Men an actual enriching Lodge experience. To quote another movie: “If you build it, they will come.”


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 U.D. 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. When he’s not busy enjoying Masonic fellowship, Darin spends his time as a DM for his children’s D&D campaign, reading, golfing, watching movies, and listening to music. You can reach him by email at

I Hope We Never Go Back to Normal

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
RWB Spencer Hamann

Humans are social creatures, and members of Fraternities tend to be especially so. One of the passive side effects of meeting in person is that it continually hones our social skills and our senses of morality and mores. We see this in family and co-worker development as well. If a person continuously meets and works with an intimate group of people who they will rely on and who will rely on them, they observe certain rules of the group to continue to be a positive inclusion within it. Journalist Sebastian Junger explores this theme in wonderful detail in his book Tribe, which I cannot recommend highly enough for anyone who is a member of, well, anything. If a person does something against the “code” of his group, he knows he is going to have to face the others, and the consequences (punishment, shame, ostracization, etc.) are often reason enough to cause him to consider his actions deeply.

What happens then, when the group is separated or not meeting together? In theory, an individual finds belonging through his support of the greater aims and functions of his group. Even when the group is not physically together, its aims, morals, and mores are still HIS aims, morals, and mores, and will govern his actions accordingly. This is core not only to tribes, families, and military units, but Freemasonry as well. We are not only Freemasons when we strap on an apron and sit in a lodge hall; we are Freemasons everywhere. However, it can become all too easy for the aims of our “tribe” to dilute when we are separated and feel less accountable. There is certainly something to be said for “strength in numbers.”

Similarly, Freemasonry is not the “user agreement” that we ought just scroll through, just to click “I agree” so we can get on with installing rings on our fingers and pins on our lapels. When we advance through our Degrees, the beautiful and timeless lessons of morality and philosophy that we find in our Craft IS that “user agreement.” One should not deign to advance in his Degrees unless he has actually read and understood (or more accurately, begun to work and understand) the lessons and principles contained within, which permeate our lives and actions.

Recently, our social needs and professed values had been challenged more than they ever have in living memory. We find ourselves separated physically, our routines disrupted, our finances uncertain, and many of us now have lots of extra time to ponder these things. When it feels like the world has gone mad, it is natural to ask questions and seek some stability and control through understanding. Daily there are new reports presenting statistics and speculations about the COVID-19 pandemic, which come at us from all directions and all kinds of sources and lead us to different conclusions. All of this news brings into sharp relief the old maxim: extraordinary circumstances bring out the best in some and the worst in others.

Nowhere perhaps has this been more apparent recently than on social media platforms. The great thing about social media is that it allows a person to instantly connect with thousands of other people and share ideas, thoughts, and information. The terrible thing about social media is also that it allows a person to instantly connect with thousands of other people and share ideas, thoughts, and information. As people the world over struggle to understand and make sense of what is happening, fear and ignorance are pitted continuously against understanding and truth. When we take to the keyboard, how do we choose what we are going to say?

Many cite their freedom of speech when it comes to what they post online. Indeed, within the rules of whatever platform you are using, you can pretty much say whatever it is you want. But consider for a minute what you actually want to say, and how you are saying it. Venting your frustration by flailing around attempting to attack political parties, studies you don’t agree with, people who are simply doing their best to get through a difficult situation, and generally creating emotional dissonance does not make you a hero, a revolutionary, or somehow “enlightened”. Those with the most Light to share are, traditionally, the most quiet about it. Similarly, making jokes about being sick or dying from COVID-19 is a hard sell for levity considering chances are someone in your audience personally knows someone affected by the virus. It doesn’t matter how “sarcastic,” you say you are, or that everyone needs to “lighten up”; these do not excuse inappropriate behavior. You are entitled to your opinions, but so is everyone else. Using fear and panic as a way to spread opinions or aims is deplorable, and unfortunately, for many it is a practice being harbored and becoming “normal”.

All of these issues stem from how we choose to appropriate and discover the truth. The deafening roar of information coming at us from all sides and all sources is a truly terrifying torrent. So often, we reach out for something familiar to grab onto to keep our heads above water. When we choose to cling to these splinters instead of swim towards rescue or land, our perceived life preservers only become anchors and pull us toward a watery grave. A particular media outlet, personality, or source may be telling us what we want to hear based on our existing beliefs or biases, but we owe it to ourselves (and everyone we interact with) to seek the truth even if it is not easy, or has no immediate personal gain. The desire to be “liked” and accepted is universal, but we cannot allow it to cloud our judgment.

Some of the problems with discovering truth stem from our societal views and mores themselves. The consequence of putting a taboo on discussing religion and politics is that before long, no one actually knows how to discuss religion and politics anymore. When the arts of logic and rhetoric are cast aside, and the impetus to craft a reasoned, researched, and evolving opinion gives way to the temptation of merely yelling one’s opinion more loudly, zealously, and repeatedly. How do you have discourse on anything with someone like this? Sharing reasoning and “whispering good council” (as we are Masonically charged) has little effect on someone who’s heart is so hardened and is staunchly determined not to have their mind changed.

Masonically we endeavor “to learn, to subdue our passions, and improve ourselves.” This is an ideal method for making sense of information and separating truth from fiction. To learn, we gather and compare information from multiple sources. This includes considering sources we may not agree with or who may give information contrary to what we expect or feel we already know. In doing comparative research, we gain a broader perspective on the topic, which will help us better extract the truth. Masonically, we are chipping away at superfluities; alchemically, we are distilling the Prima Materia.

To subdue our passions, we look at our information objectively; that is, seeing things for what they are without attaching our emotions to them. Objective reasoning is much easier said than done. Ask yourself: What is being said? Who is saying it, and are they credible and knowledgeable on the subject? What kinds of biases may be present? Is the information coming from someplace designed to create “shock value” and get people excited? Do I like some information just because it squares with what I already believe, or do facts and reason back it? Could I not only present this information but logically and reasonably defend it? If you find your only defense for a point is an emotional “because I like it/don’t like it” or “because that’s what my tribe says” or “because I said so,” then your passion is overshadowing your desire for truth.

This also holds true if someone asking a question about your position, asking where you got your information from, or disagreeing with you causes you to go on the offensive. As soon as you start name-calling and generalizing (for example: “all of you [expletive of choice] [political alignment of choice] are the same, and a bunch of [insult of choice]”), you’ve tipped your hand as to your motivation: ignorance and fear. Name-calling and verbal bullying have never been Masonic, and Godwin’s Law applies: when someone compares another person to Hitler or the Nazis, they’ve lost any high ground their argument may have had.

Additionally, subduing our passions requires the separation of facts from opinions. Not all articles (this one included) include a bibliography, footnotes, and cited works to help guide the reader. Neither does there exist in the punctuation arsenal an “opinion mark”: a glyph that, when placed at the end of a sentence, designates it as the author’s opinion rather than a statement of fact. Maybe there should be (insert opinion mark here). In any case, careful review with questions like those above, cross reference verification, and looking for biases can help determine what statements are unbiased, and which ones are opinions with particular agendas.

To improve ourselves, we choose the truth that comes out of reasoned and thoughtful research and examination rather than that which comes out of emotion alone. But choosing this truth is not enough: we must apply it to our lives and actions as well. The truth is not always convenient, but it is far better to admit an error in the present than to continue to reinforce it and ultimately suffer for it more in the future.

Speaking from personal experience, I can unequivocally say that one of the most liberating experiences is being proved wrong. To have the realization that you have been building upon an unstable foundation or with flawed materials and to make the choice to do better is indescribably freeing. No one wants to put their time and effort into making something flawed; we are all seeking to do good work and build towards perfection. It is when we can take a step back, acknowledge a mistake, and then most importantly, work to correct it that our most meaningful progress is made. It may feel like it’s embarrassing to admit a wrong, but the freedom that comes from shedding unhealthy habits and viewpoints more than eclipses it. Furthermore, if you are surrounded by people who truly care for you, they will never make you feel small or incompetent for learning and growing.

As we move forward and progress through our current unusual circumstances, some things will stay with us, and some will fall away. It is my earnest hope that we will emerge with a greater appreciation of little things we took for granted: the power of a warm handshake, having a meal with a friend, exchanging smiles. What I hope we leave behind, and what we need to leave behind, is derisiveness. No matter how Freemasonry moves in the future, it is imperative that we move together.

In these current days of separation, where we rely on virtual platforms to stay connected, we cannot consider it the same as a face-to-face conversation. What is posted is posted for all to read, and lingers on a long time after we post it. It is imperative for us as Freemasons to be especially conscious of what we choose to share, whether that is fair or not: many look to us to be an example of truth and a beacon, and Brothers look to each other for good council and Light.

So consider what you build and how your work takes shape. Build thoughtfully and carefully, understanding that your edifice is visible to many by your actions, but especially during times of separation, it is visible by the physical marks you leave with the words you choose. Choose wisely what you sow, as those seeds will grow up around you, and eventually you will be held accountable for your crop, on either this plane or the next.

“Getting back to normal” is chorused by many seeking relief from our current situation. But if we wish to survive and thrive, we can’t let normal become acceptable. Let’s never go back to normal; normal has never suited us, and we have more potential than that. Let us, instead, plant a foot firmly on the path to Light, and press forward to better.


RWB Spencer Hamann is a luthier and musicologist working in northern Illinois. He is an avid woodworker and artificer, and enjoys antique restorations and custom commissions.Curatorship and adding value are core to his personal philosophies. Spencer was Raised in 2013, and served Libertyville Lodge No. 492 as Worshipful Master from 2017-2018. He is the Senior Warden of Spes Novum Lodge No. 1183, and serves the Grand Lodge of Illinois as their Grand Representative to Wisconsin, District Education officer for the 1st NE District, and is a Certified Lodge Instructor (CLI). He can be contacted at

Freemasonry's Black Hole

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

You have made your journey to the East. Planning for this milestone consumed you. It saturated your life. Thoughts of budgets and programs bloated your brain until there was room for nothing else, and, oh yes, there was that big part you had to memorize. Then you got there. You brought those programs to life. You managed the budget. You were gut-punched by the unexpected. You punched back. You won.

Now your year is coming to an end. Where, you wonder, did the time go? It all went by so quickly. Suddenly you realize you are traveling near lightspeed toward the event horizon… that point of no return… of the great black hole of Freemasonry: life after being Master of your Lodge.

Maybe it doesn't hit you right away. Oh, those first few weeks after your term is over… that sweet era when the responsibility void hits, when the burdens of leadership rest on someone else's shoulders, when you get to go to meetings, plan nothing, do nothing, and wear that sporty new Past Master's apron… is a nirvana reserved for a precious few… the newly minted junior Past Master.

But it's an illusion. You eventually realize you've been sucked into the great void. Oblivion awaits. You can't sit on the North, heckling the ritual performance forever. You can only take so much listening to debates about the menu at the next dinner, reading of the minutes, and grousing about the outrageous bill to fix the air conditioner. You realize they can do all of this without you. Weeks ago, you were the most important guy in the Lodge. Now you are, by your standard, irrelevant. You're not even the top-dog of all the Past Masters. You're at the bottom of the barrel. And like anything that reaches singularity in a black hole, you disappear. Experience shows us it happens to many, possibly the majority of Past Masters. They gradually stop coming to meetings, fade away, and leave us wondering whatever happened to them.

As you try to fight this trend instead of "whence came you," a new question pops up: "whence go you," or more simply, "now what?" The fact is most of us don't want to sit around doing nothing. We need relevance, something to do, a goal, a project, a responsibility, a raison d'être.

Part of your planning as you approach the East should be to figure out what you will do when it's all over. Your Lodge has many needs you can fill: maybe it needs a new Lodge Education Officer, an appointed office filled, a mentor for new initiates, a Lodge historian, someone to take the helm of a civic project or, God forbid, a new Secretary. There are also appendant bodies to consider. The York and Scottish Rites especially offer more opportunities for the Masonic education, fellowship, and community service we crave. Grand Lodge committees always need staffing. You might even put together an article for the Midnight Freemasons.

Whatever you do, vow to stay active; and the activities you choose should include those that keep you coming back the foundation of our Fraternity – your Lodge.


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 is 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.

A Perfect Union

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

As I write this, I am overwhelmed by the thought that as an operative craftsman, an electrician, I often use the wrong tools in place of the common gavel or hammer. I sometimes use my linesman’s pliers in place of my operative hammer (and any other tool I can) because of their accessibility and my comfort level with their use.

I have used the same brand and style of pliers since I was fourteen years old. They have a natural balance and weight in my hand. You could say without the least bit of irony that I could identify my pliers in the dark as well as at noonday. They are always within reach as their natural habitat when not in use is my back-right pocket.

My pliers help me to make connections. Like Atropos cuts the thread of life, I use them to trim away excess wire to make it fit into place. I use them to twist multiple wires, sometimes of different thickness or hardness, into one harmonious whole.

No two electricians make their splices the same way. While similar, they all have a unique character. You could often tell a who made a splice by a simple visual inspection. Some are beautiful works of art seemingly spiraling into infinity. Others are short and squat. A good splice always has equal tension between the separate wires instead of a single conductor having the others wrapped around it. This harmony is essential because otherwise, it creates space and otherness, which we see as the arcing and heating of a failed union.

A splice is covered by a protective layer known as a wire nut. In earlier times, before being covered with a wire nut, conductors were tinned by soldering to ensure a good bond. In modern times this is seen as inefficient and unnecessary. Those long spiraling splices won’t fit under the protective covering correctly and leave the splice open to conflicts with other materials or splices of different potentials. The short and stout splice has little contact between the conductors, and their bond can be easily broken, resulting in the arc and heat of their failed union, as described earlier. Their shortness prevents the springs of the wire nut from firmly grasping them and makes it prone to falling off, leaving the union open to the outside world. The perfect length for a splice is one that takes all of this into account. It’s not too short and not too long. The perfect splice is a golden mean between the extremes of length and breadth. The perfect splice is like the knot of Hercules.

This might seem unimportant at first glance, but on further contemplation, these connections are essential. They are unseen all around us. There are probably dozens within the room you’re in as you read this. Our life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness both literally and figuratively rely on these and similar connections.

Why then, if so much rests on the effectiveness of this tool, would I misuse it? If it is truly an extension of my wisdom and will, why would I use it as a hammer? Why would I use something designed to unite to destroy?

While somewhat useful as a hammer, the use of my pliers in this manner often results in a subpar job being accomplished. It also results in damage to the tool as well as the materials it is applied to.

My health, reputation, feelings of self-worth, and ability to feed my family all hinge on using the right tool for the right job. A graphic illustration of this is that I know an electrician that, while using his pliers to pull wire, slipped and knocked out his front teeth with them.

Speculatively, this is also often the case with similar results.

Would Hephaestus use a hammer designed molding brass (copper) when working with gold? I think that he would be careful not to let the least impurity into the form of his creation. I think of the beautiful harmony that results from his working of the metal. Each strike of his hammer creates a musical note corresponding with a degree of formation. These notes combine into a harmonious clarion call, a song as beautiful as anything played by Apollo on his lyre pointing to the possibility of transformation from baseness to beauty.

Speaking of beauty, I’m struck by the thought that Michelangelo used his common gavel to create Pieta. He used it to create one of the most beautiful pieces of art ever produced. It communicates something elemental. When I see this sculpture, I think of Aphrodite holding Adonis. More specifically, I see beauty cradling the youth that she loves. I see the receptive forces of nature weeping over the loss of the active forces. I see her crying over the loss of creative potential. I see it as the divine holding the mortal as it fades away, welcoming it into her warm embrace. This sculpture is a physical representation of the eternal nature of the soul.

How then could the man that from a block of marble communicated that message, in reaction to criticism from outside forces, have used that very same tool to attempt to destroy this creation or, at the very least, mar its perfection. In this case, the craftsman didn’t use the wrong tool for the wrong job. He applied the same implement with improper and impious intent, much like the ruffians did in the allegory of the third degree.

Likewise, historically some of the most beautiful architecture and sculpture the world has ever seen has been destroyed not by its creators, not by forces within. Instead, they are leveled by those from without. These profane forces often replace these sacred monuments with weak facsimiles or copies of the same. They often supplant them simply so that they can appropriate them and call them their own.

I’ve realized of late that we are all in a battle. This battle isn’t with each other --lines drawn by the distinctions between us. The splice teaches us that those can be combined into a harmonious whole. We are in a battle with those forces which work to create those distinctions in the first place, those forces that seek to divide us, those forces that want to create the arcs and heat of a failed splice so that eventually over time they cause the entire union to fail.

How do we win this battle? We will be victorious by choosing the right tools and maintaining their purity by using them correctly, and not letting others use them against us. We win by using our speculative linesman’s pliers to create the perfect splice, and by doing so, we “let there be light.”


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.

PRISCA THEOLOGIA: The Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite in Verse

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Brother Bradley Rees

Philosophy, certainly, frames our Craft
By way of moral systems, allegorically veiled.
And through all its illustrations – and illusions –
The symbols, so simplistically, show not what is shared;
But, rather, something else, 
Something more
To but a few that chose to knock on tyled doors. 
Yet only 1000 or perhaps 500 or less 
Seek what most do not:
Those inner meanings of Inherent Truths 
Once guarded by sages and magi.  

And now?  
Contemporary Man – with his muddled mind – 
Mingles mysteries by way of metered tones; 
Bemoaning all the while
Everything that he has not. 
Yet, for those that chose  
And the others that still seek more -  
More knowledge, More understanding – 
They uncover hidden prospects purposely provided 
By means of similitudes and speculation.  

Thoth bore the fruit that Zarathustra ate.
And from that bounty Pythagoras and Euclid 
In propositions,
Impressed geometry onto Man:  
Juxtaposed and fully separated 
-  As he was – 
From all. 
And, too, the relation of 
Whole number-forms was shown; 
Helping to survey and plot
Our mosaic pavement while expounding 
On solstitial lines. 
Everything always being hidden 
In plain view:   
Light and shadow and even, 
By some surprise,
Irrationality in its fullest equilibrium.
From this, the dyadic union that 
Balanced tessellations made 
New borders for a Blazing Star. 

Henceforth, Sophocles was but one
That bridged the gap 
Between the Pater’s precepts 
And Platonic proposals: 
Plato’s Republic – Number VII 
Its irony, perhaps, intendin’.  
So important -  be the Trivium,  
It being the Art of Words. 
It served as dowry to the Four 
With its grammar, logic, 
And its rhetoric.

And from this, in time, 
It found its match 
In Quadrivium – so neatly so; 
It, too, being an Art… 
This time, in Numbered form with 
Its arithmetic and geometry; 
Its music and astronomy.
They all being like the Four Elements 
And the Mother Letters-Three. 

Even so, a millennia would need to pass 
Before an invitation was received 
To attend Capella’s Marriage:
The union of Philosophy and Mercury, 
Bringing forth the Arts and Sciences both, 
Finally cemented:  a marriage for the Ages.
Yet still, within more contemplative fields 
We found furrows dug, from which 
The Thrice Great Hermes Trismegistus grew:
Ptolemy’s answer to Thoth’s equipoise of spirit.
As above, so below: 
Esoteric, Exoterically so
Still being a conundrum to the many
Rather than the few.

Within due bounds, the tick of time tallied  
As we watched the Temple fall:   
Befalling us, Befalling all.
Our mortality.  Our morality.
Our mind’s menagerie, 
And still, upon the acrid smoke 
From the first Temple-fallen, 
Wafting up, we watched 
As the Tetragrammaton pass on;   
Our Lost Word becoming the first offering
Placed atop the funeral pyres 
Of the ignorance of Man.

Scattered, too, our Prisca Theologia; 
Now only discussed in depth by but a few 
Through veils and illustrations:   
Cicero, Lactantius, and Augustine being but a minority
Of those that chose to ponder, think, and grow.
Yet, both Palaces and Chariots finally formed 
In certain books; such books being those of 
Only Sages, Secret Scholars, and the Wise.
Ezekiel, as well as Enoch, pouring forth 
The Light that penetrated ether, 
Marked paths by way of celestial flickers:  
Dimly, yet consistently, throughout 
The Darkest of the Ages.

And from these beams a Tree of Life  
Cultivated Man… in thought… and spirit,  
Even if it was but a mere green sapling then.    
In time, its leaves becoming a mix of K’s, and C’s, and Q’s
And, from its infant roots, anchored first in Provence,   
Then later, stretching to Catalonia and beyond,  
Rashbi’s thoughts, through a learned man 
From Spain’s Leon were codified:  
And the Splendorous Book of Radiance was born.

Bounding forward, perhaps 200 years or more, 
William – perchance through Bacon – 
Wrote of Fifth Henry’s charge:   
“Once more unto the breach!”  
Those words echoing from a future place, 
In reflection of centuries-three 
The fight for old Jerusalem.
Alas, from Acre closely held secrets, 
Succumbed, eventually by treachery, 
Drifted once more into near-obscurity.

Returning home, humble warrior-philosophers, 
In solace,
Held and nurtured sacred theosophies while serving
As ambassadors of tolerance, faith, and balance.   
And, in shepherding the Mysteries to the Continent, 
Honor and equality, once more, 
Found fidelity in foreign lands. 
Then, from Braga and near the banks 
Of the Nabão, 
Poor Fellows safeguarded treasure, 
It being not of coin or gem, 
But rather, twas the glistening 
Of the gilded Word.   
Our Greek brethren bestowing 
Thesauros onto the world.  A treasure:  
A coveted vault with fortified chest, 
A place of deposit 
Brimming with sacred knowledge;  
The truest Treasury safeguarding 
Nature’s Greatest Book.

In Celtic Callaici, two knights 
Atop a single mount:  
Conjecture making it a selfless act.
But, in truth, a disguise in symbol, 
A reflection-singular,
Hidden in plain view; 
Man, in balance, searching for the  
Understanding of Deity and He – the goal.    
And, with mind and soul 
Off-balanced as they were,
Man delved deeply into scrolls of vellum 
From those of Essenes and Sufis, 
Yazidis and the Druze; 
The Zohar and those of Sabeans:
The Mandaeans and their priestly Nasoreans  
 - Perhaps becoming later Nazarenes - 
All refining Man… in spirt; 
Even, all the while, 
A budding kingdom blossomed and 
A Capetian Branch reached west 
Towards Newer Worlds across the seas.

From this and Gothic Constitutions,  
Some even from as close as Oxfordshire, 
We see cornerstones founded on ideals 
From noble knights – those lovers of wisdom - 
As they traveled throughout 
Newly charted lands.  

But, in time, near Besançon 
A Prior from Montfaucon 
In Toulouse forced flight 
Because of the telling of his lies:
So unsoundly, so untrue….
Yet, he kindled the Order’s death
Of the Grandest of the Masters, 
The brethren from beyond the seas, 
And, too, the deaths of Preceptors from 
Poitiers and those of Normandy.   
To the East and South 
From the City’s Isle and Pont-Neuf 
They found refuge-first 
At a Bavarian’s respite, 
It being provided by the Fourth Louis:  
A holy emperor of Rome he then had been. 
While others sought the Farmer-King:
Back, once more,  to where the 
Branch began 
Near Portus de Calle.
And, lest we forget, farther west 
They also fled.  
With them, antediluvian paradigms precipitated: 
On to Caledonia!  On to Dai Riata 
And, too, the House of Alpinid!   
Once there, in Alba, 
Writings written on the River Welland 
Within the Burghley House, 
As well as others too, 
A great master of Scottish warks was given 
Good and wholesome instruction.     
Then, in Edinburgh, Schaw captured operatively,
First in No. 1 and later, 
Following closely, with his Second:  
It more Speculatively than the first; 
The Second cementing
For Kilwinning, as Matriarch, 
Her rightful place and charge.

Along with statutes, James the Sixth – and then the First – 
United north and south.  
And, in tow, as Schaw sojourned 
In the Celestial Lodge, 
The newest Stuart King 
Brought forth a man from Robertland.  
And, as it was, by mistake to None 
That the Craft, incorporated as it was, 
Brought with them 
Concealed and cryptic lodges 
As they migrated south 
To London-proper.
The Old Charges being the banners of new beginnings, 
Brought forth the secrets as before.  

From the Highlands and the Lowlands, 
And from the Isles, too, 
Scottish Clans whispered low 
As they escorted in Ivory Boxes 
Hushed tones of Hermetics and theosophy.  
Such theurgic forays finally forming 
New foundations for our beloved Craft:  
Tethered and tyled by men of virtue 
And guarded anonymity.

Puzzling, still, to this day, 
One may ponder some.
Of what did the King of Stuart
And his Warks’ Master see of value, 
In such tokens, signs, and gripes?
And, too, what had Elias sought 
While in Shire Lane, 40 hence from then,
By declaring he had been the first in Albion
When, in fact, he was eleventh?

Apart from this and, too, combined
A palladium, three-score and ten would pass
Before separates-four merged into one; 
Saint Paul looking on in silence 
As geese were grilled
By tavern-owners 
Throughout the solemn churchyard.  
Since then ‘til now, secrets remain
And now, as then, 
All but a few with noble cause
Seek and search for Light, 
And more.

Farther on, Hapsburg fell in Spain and
A succession perpetuated -
While pensive politics, 
Propagating Protestantism throughout Prydain, 
Matched the Sun King’s forgoing 
Of his oath to recalcitrant Jacobites.
And from this all, from such intrigues, 
Our Craft-inspired, made three from two:  
One making two and 
The second making Masters of us all.   

First, as seekers, we sought the Light.
And through the Darkness, 
We Entered and broke the bonds of substance
While fixating on disregarded deficiencies.
Passing on beyond the winding stairs,
With our faults acknowledged, 
The understanding of our undertakings 
We cemented while
Our roughened edges, 
Calling to be cleaved and cut away, 
Eroded slowly by degree.
And what of that beneath?  
Tis but Man in purest form, 
Yearning for release.
Alas, from then, a Mason’s Master-piece 
Was Raised:  the ascension of our soul and more:    
Loss and rebirth;  A living resurrection
Of the mind… and of the spirit.  
From this, First-Man began to see and know, immortal.    

In time, this wellspring bore Scotch Masters and, 
Leaping from London across the seas, 
Sought out Burgundy, Bordeaux, and Paris
While in Königsberg‎ and Hamburg, Bohemia and Berlin,
Our Craft explored – and then admired - the Cross Rosie.
A rebuilding of the Temple our goal
In life would be.
Such acts, combined with rhetoric back in France 
From the Preceptor of the Bonnie Prince 
- Enlightened as it was -   
Merged faith and reason, which 
Compelled compilations and 
Awoke Chevaliers and Jesuits and, too, 
Our jilted Jacobites to negotiate the nuptials 
Of four new, four more 
To the first of three.  

Soon after still, 
Saint Andrew’s Knights and Secret Masters 
Took positions with Illustrious Templars and Sublimes.  
In hands both, sword and trowel,  
Like those of Zorobabel  
They defended bastions ‘til the end. 
And from this mystic coronation, 
They took their rightful place:  
Princes and Sovereigns 
Standing, resolutely so, 
As solemn Eastern Knights.  
All the while, 
Liberty of Thought and Passage
Echoed from their lips 
As a tetractys frame was built 
And an Emperors’ Council formed anew.

Then still, after Seven Years of global strife 
A fledgling Rite-perfected grew from Clermont; 
Blossoming degrees from fertile ground – 
Seven or ten in all and, 
Adding to those that came before, 
We find the number of Prophets 
Or that the captive-year 
That Ezekiel dreamt:
Such glorious dimensions of a 
Second Temple soaring.  

In time, philosophies diverged 
And, too, they coalesced; 
Facilitating the Loge Française and 
The furnishings of forays:  
First forging patents for Etienne 
As well as inspirations 
For a Flemish merchant-scribe.
Royal Secrets soon grew more, 
Becoming 25.

As it went, relying on the trade winds’ push, 
We watched a Rite 
Travail to what Vespucci claimed.  
And later still the first makings of a lodge 
Embarked, sailing north, 
Maturing along the way 
To Nouveau Française and La Louisanne; 
Never forgetting that
Les Rites du Française found patronage 
In Prussia, from the Greatest of the kings.  
And, in keeping pace while back in France, 
The Rite continued through Érasme 
And an eloquent knight from de Bérage, 
They both – channeling wisdom – 
Shaped sequential suppositions 
Of a chevalier from near the River Cher; 
The number of degrees growing 
Under Louis 16 to 17 or more.  

Across the open water and 
After Francken camped in Albany
Eighteen Articles framed 
Constitutions of the Grandest style,
While Tiphaine near the gulf 
And Delahouge with others, too,
Influenced a Perfected Lodge, 
Sublimely so,  
That finally formed 
At a Shepheard's Tavern 
Near where Ashley and the Cooper met.  
And there, we consecrated 
Our sacred Sedes; 
Another Temple took its place 
In history.  

There, as esoteric alchemists, 
A merchant-banker, Moses; 
The second, a Sephardic bard, 
Both took word and passed on wisdom  
To a Quartermaster’s Second of the Charge. 
And later still, an ordained 
And genteel doctor 
Dipped deeper in Sophia’s well, 
And from this came 
Brimming pails of faith and reason; 
Eight plus five and twenty 
Took their form:  
A veneration of Morin once more.  

Then raising, praising, defining, refining… all;  
And influenced -  to some Degree – 
By Carlile as he stood 
With British suffragists:  
Holbrook and Yates, and Mackey moreover
So sublimely set in motion 
A transmutation’s sojourn  
As the low country Rite in 33 
Slowly ripened into the Rite
So Ancient and Accepted…and Scottish 
So mote it be.      

But still, it would yet be another 
Two-score and twelve before 
A Cincinnatus absorbed les haut degrés; 
Being tutored by 
A prestigious, doctored Caroline.    
And then, for seven hence, the man 
From down near Craigie Bridge
Distilled – solemnly so – hundreds down
To just shy of sixty-three.
It was from this mind
And that of Eliphas and too
An Ashkenazi from Safed
 – What a Lion to us all  - 
That Formulas and Rituals bubbled over; 
Up and Out from the cauldron’s lip
Into supping cups and, magically so, 
Into the minds….of Man.  

Two more solar cycles 
Came to pass while mixing 
Moral myths with faith and reason, 
And that of virtue too, that
A Magnum Opus bore – religiously so – 
A philosophy in text; 
Laying forth for all of us to muse.  
Morally, and in dogmatic style, 
A decade and a half would pass
Before the final tome took form.  
Its underlying thesis:  
Equilibrium of self-reflection, sacred 
And the search for answers, All.

What is the betterment of Man?
How shall Man achieve such feats?  
Through word?  
Or perhaps by thought or deed
From some renowned and learn’ed Master?
Or, could it be, that this rebuilding of
Our spiritual Temple can only
Be done from some system-sanctified?
Morality for Man.  
By men.  Can this be done?
Moral thoughts and actions 
In balance with certain contraries:
Tis an equilibrium , a fulcrum balancing that
Of mettle and that of matter, too.  
Of men.  
Of Man.
Of Me.  


Bro:. Bradley Rees lives near Baltimore, Maryland, and works for the Federal government. He is also a retired Army officer with almost 25 years of commissioned officer and enlisted soldier experience. He was raised to the Sublime degree in 2007 and to the 32° in the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, SJ, in 2009. He is a member of Queen City Lodge #761 in Clarksville, Tennessee, and an affiliate member of Corinthian Lodge #93 in Towson, Maryland. He is also a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Baltimore, Orient of Maryland where he is the Prelate-Chaplain for the Knights of Saint Andrew-Baltimore Chapter. He enjoys reading about the history of Freemasonry and learning more about the esoteric nature of the Craft. He is also a member of the Scottish Rite and Maryland Masonic Research Societies, The Masonic Society, and the Quatuor Coronati Correspondence Circle.