Esotericon 2020

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson



It’s been almost a week since Esotericon 2020 “signed off”, and many of us are still digesting the information gleaned in the presentations. What is Esotericon? I’m glad you asked. Esotericon is an annual conference, not unlike other Masonic conventions, e.g. MasonicCon in Attleboro or Texas Masonic Con. It has one glaring differentiator—all presentations are Esoteric. 

If you want to know more about the premise and its first year, I can’t explain it better than Kevin Homan did last year when he produced this LINKED ARTICLE. You could imagine that this was a niche crowd with only a few attendees. You’d be wrong. How about 300 attendees? How about $3,500 donated to the Rainbow Girls charity fund for Give Kids the World Village

Speakers at this year’s event included; Chuck Dunning, Angel Millar, Josef W├Ąges, and some return appearances by Dave Bacon, Don McAndrews, and myself. A special presentation on the Esoteric Symbology of the Rainbow was also given, and if I’m honest—was the show-stealer. There were two wonderful special guest appearances by MW PGM Akram Elias who talked about the Masonic Legacy Society. And MW Sean Bradshaw had some opening remarks. Having the conference opened by two MW Brothers felt wonderful—a validation for me at least, that labors in this area mean something. 

Did I have a favorite part of the conference? I did. I mentioned above the special presentation on Rainbow, which I thought was fantastic, and I also really enjoyed Bro. Chuck Dunning’s presentation, "You are the Mysteries". 


Up to this point, you’re wondering how they accomplished a conference in this global pandemic, and the answer is that they did it via Zoom webinar. It was the best Zoom meeting I’d ever been on. There were no instances of, “You’re muted!” Or other typical online meeting pitfalls. All the good and none of the bad. 

Of course, the big surprise is that Esotericon has already picked a date for next year. 

If you want to learn more, here is the latest episode of The Masonic Roundtable in which we spoke to the Brothers who planned Esotericon. I hope you enjoy it and I hope to see you next year at the conference!


~RHJ

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.




Must Love be Bounded?

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert E. Jackson




My Brothers, my last piece I wrote of the frustrations of Social Media and the pain induced by the media we are fed each day. I wanted to continue that journey down a separate path, further articulating that pain, in hopes of understanding the waves of depression that the smallest stone can create. If we want to change our path, we must recognize the impacts of our current course.

As I retreated from social media, I found solace within other screens...video games and television. Streaming media services and online gaming are two industries benefiting greatly by our current ‘situation.’ As I was seeking a new escape, I came across a show from a few years ago entitled "Hannibal." As you may have guessed, the program reviews the earlier professional life of the infamous Hannibal Lecter, prior to Silence of the Lambs and Anthony Hopkins' portrayal of that character. One of the main characters within the show, Will Graham, portrays a brilliant yet troubled mind that is able to identify and track down the most disturbed criminals. Will has the innate ability to get into the mind of the killer, understanding their thoughts and motivations, in order to track them down. Unfortunately, this ability comes at a price…feeling the torment of the criminal, internalizing the feeling that not only drives the horrid actions, but the aftermath as well. It was mentioned that Will's empathy for the killer, the gift that allows him to solve these crimes, also torments his mind. Something about this statement resonated with me, so I started researching.

As I scoured the interwebs for information related to social media and depression, the vast majority of articles focused on the aforementioned phenomenon of Fear of Missing Out, or FOMO. Tying empathy with depression brought about articles like this one discussing how those with depression often suppress their own internal feelings as a mode of survival. Unfortunately, when you spend so much time trying to bury your own feelings, the feelings of those around you are often tossed into the same grave. If we flip that scenario, however, we might think that the happiness and achievements of others can raise us from our depression. By becoming that Perfect Ashlar, we can foster the happiness and joy in others, and feel the joy within our own hearts. But in 2020, when there is so much unhappiness and anger, it drives you further into the depressive state. Further into that chasm.



So I slightly altered my search, considering the reflective feelings I internalize from so many others. Eventually, I did find an article from the Washington Post examining how high levels of empathy can not only mentally, but also physiologically, negatively impact the subjects. Robin Stern, associate director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, states in the article that “those who regularly prioritize others' emotions over their own are more susceptible to experiencing anxiety or low-level depression.” The specific phrase, “prioritize others’ emotion over their own” was particularly resonating, as I recognized within myself that my own perceived happiness was conceived in the happiness of others.

Another paper, entitled "Empathy and depression: The moral system on overdrive" provided more detail into this phenomenon (much more than I could comprehend). The article states that "People who are depressed most often have normal or elevated levels of empathy; however, their affect-directed, automatic causal interpretations of pain in others are often disturbed, leading to non-conscious assertions of blame, usually placed on themselves." I've written before about Echoism in the Perils of the Perfect Ashlar, so the self loathing was no stranger to me. Following on this thread, the paper asserts that "Depressives are rarely thinking exclusively about the self; instead, they are often dwelling on how they might endanger others, or on their beliefs - often false- that they have harmed others in the past." Overlay these claims with the nonstop animosity we are exposed to every day, and the source of the pain becomes so incredibly obvious.

These new data points within my brain confused me as much as they resonated with me. Wasn’t empathy a good thing, a trait we should all strive for within our daily lives? One could likely argue that with Empathy, those ruffians who created such heinous acts would never have been dealt with accordingly. Was King Solomon’s sentencing simply unjust? Perhaps, similar to other aspects within life, there is a balance that is required, an equilibrium, with Empathy. But what is the opposition to Empathy? When I read the antonyms to the term Empathy, they are all characteristics which we have been taught should be avoided. Detachment. Antagonism. Emotionless. Coldness. These are the characteristics of the psychopathic killer we see portrayed in various forms of media, including the aforementioned show ‘Hannibal.’ So why would you want to achieve balance with a trait that has always been portrayed as something to correct?

As you may have noticed, my writing often creates more questions than answers, after all, the only answers that matter are those we can discover within ourselves. Thus far, within our lessons, I’ve failed to find the guidance of keeping Empathy within due bounds. One could posit that Empathy is simply another passion that must be managed and controlled. But to me, this is a direct contradiction to the root of Charity; boundless and unconditional Love. These contradictions have left me at the proverbial ‘fork in the road.’ For those that have traveled, as well as those who find themselves stuck, let’s continue the conversation as Brothers and Friends. Perhaps this is where the bond of Brotherhood can quell the flames of humanity.

~REJ

Robert Edward Jackson is a Past Master and recovering 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 solutions engineer to pay for it all. He can be reached at info@montgomerylodge.org

Why Be a Master?

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Michael Arce


This is my third attempt at writing this article. They say you are supposed to "write what you know." Outside of a virtual experience in a concordant degree, my time in the Master's Chair has been limited to Blue Lodge degree work. Pursuing the Road To The East is not only a course offered in my jurisdiction; it is almost an expectation for every man who possesses leadership traits. "When you are Master...," is a phrase a new Mason will hear from older members and line officers at dinner, degree rehearsals, and outside of Lodge meetings. My view was that becoming Master of my Lodge was an expectation, one that I have gone back and forth on pursuing during my Masonic career. There have been times when this decision was either a question or a goal.

WHY BE MASTER?
The Master's Chair was the second object that caught my attention the first time I stepped foot in a Lodge room. I am the first man in my family to visit a Masonic Lodge, the first to become a Master Mason. I keep my personal experience in mind every time I give a Lodge room tour. I was 35-years-old at that time. Freemasonry was not the first community group or charity I had expressed an interest in joining. Growing up in southwest Arizona, I was a member of my local 4-H club and high school FFA chapter. As an adult, I have volunteered with the American Heart Association, served on non-profit leadership boards, and am a professional society member. But there was something distinctively different about the Master's Chair the evening of my first Lodge visit.

First, the placement struck me. It's the highest seat in the room. Most Master's Chairs are ornate. I noticed the decoration, distinctive hard carvings, that must relate to the duties of the office. There was a small pedestal, about waist high, with a gavel within arm's length. A set of stairs led up to this seat. Below the station was the alter, situated in the center of the room. The alter was the first object to catch my eye. There aren't many meeting rooms that have an alter!

I was a visitor, a guest, during my first Lodge meeting. There was a handful of other interested men that evening; we all sat in a row together. My second observation about the Master's Chair is the man who occupies it. There was another striking difference between this Mason and the others in the room: he was the only man wearing a hat. He was able to stand and move freely around the room when he spoke. And when he addressed those in attendance, he had their complete attention. I had never seen anything like this! I looked around the room, taking an inventory of the men. They were engaged, not one side conversation or comment was made as he spoke. The way these men revered this leader intrigued me to learn more about the significance of this role.

Years later, when the question is asked, "why be a Master," I point to that first experience as what initially drew me to being the Master of a Lodge. After I was raised, like many new Brothers, the Master of the Lodge approached me to take a position in his line as a Steward. I accepted, and so began my journey to the East. Over the next three years, I advanced through the line to the Junior Warden's station. It was during that time when I began to question my path. "Why be Master" was something I would ask myself after seeing the division and politics that is a part of any organization. My impression of the role began to tarnish; I witnessed the stress that is a by-product of being the top decision-maker, the man ultimately responsible for every aspect of the Lodge. I saw past the cheery greetings and friendly handshakes the Master would extend, to his frustrations and personal fears.

Why be Master when you are the center of attention and the target of criticism? Shakespeare was right. "Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown." Or, in our case, the hat.

WHY BE A MASTER?

This article has taken three attempts to complete because I needed to find my answer — that required time, experience, and perspective. This May marked my fifth year as a Master Mason. I am now a member of my third Lodge. I want to be a Master to contribute to the experience of the Brethern. While that may seem like a simple answer, I realize the complexities. To me, becoming Master is more than having a place in a progressive line — it is the dedication and work invested in improving myself. One must know one's self before offering help to another, right? My focus is on being the best Blue Lodge member I can be right now. I want to learn my parts for ritual, not for perfection, but to be proficient and a resource for others. I need time to understand the challenge that comes in leading a diverse group of like-minded men. That can only be observed by investing the time to work through the chairs. Most importantly, instead of making plans for what I will do during "my year" in the East, I need to sit, watch, and support the Brothers who precede me.

I now know that being a Master is more than learning the word, getting a fancy ring, special apron, or Grand Honors. Being a Master means you are the man your Brothers elect to lead them and care for the Lodge.

There is a reason the Master's Chair is prominent: it is a large chair to fill.

~MA

Brother Michael Arce is a member of Mt. Vernon Lodge #3 in Albany, New York. When not in Lodge, Bro. Arce is the Marketing Manager for Capital Cardiology Associates in Albany, New York. He enjoys meeting new Brothers and hearing how the Craft has enriched their lives. He can be reached at michael.arce@me.com

Redefining the Stated Meeting

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. William H. Boyd



This is an amazing time in masonry with new tools available that allow us to meet virtually, research inexpensively and from home, and share our findings widely. We can study and learn nearly everything we desire about masonry and pursue those passions as far as technology will take us. Even considering the many opportunities now available to us, I frequently find in my travels, in my reading, and in various podcasts I listen to, a chorus of voices begging to eliminate or reform the dreaded stated meeting. How is it that of all of the various masonic topics, functions, and activities that the stated meeting has become the focus of so many searching for the fulfilling masonic future? I have some thoughts and suggestions on ways for you to put and keep stated meetings in their proper masonic place. 

Is your personal masonic foundation based mostly or completely on your experiences with stated meetings? Are stated meetings the central focus of your own masonic experience? What do I mean and how would you know if it is? Are stated meetings your main reference point in your discussions about masonry? If someone asks you about masonry, do you eventually find yourself explaining about paying bills and reading minutes? When you talk with brothers from other lodges about your experiences in masonry, do you find yourself mostly recounting events from stated meetings? Have you told, or do you tell other brothers that your biggest frustration with masonry is the way stated meetings are run and how long they are? I would propose that if you answered yes to those questions, and if you find that all or most of your memories, impressions, and opinions revolve around stated meetings, then your masonry is mostly based or centered on stated meetings – and if you were looking for more from masonry when you joined the craft, then perhaps you’re doing it wrong.
 
The natural question becomes “how do we, how do I fix this”? Can we re-center our own personal masonry so that stated meetings are reduced or relegated to its true minor but necessary role in our personal and collective masonic experiences? I truly believe that we can and we must if we are to truly improve ourselves, enjoy and expand our masonic experiences, and take control of our masonic journey rather than being pulled along from one stated meeting to the next.

In Lodges of varying sizes, varying levels of activity, and the common complaint heard throughout the fraternity is: “stated meetings will be the death of freemasonry” and “if we don’t fix the stated meetings, masonry is doomed”. When you reach this point, the stated meeting is the center of your masonic focus. Stated meetings have become distractions and convenient excuses for some that are unfulfilled and unsure of how to find satisfaction or a way forward. It is too easy to withhold a question or an idea, or to sit out from discussion in the name of not wanting to extend an already-lengthy business meeting and that becomes the natural impulse for many on the sides, depriving themselves and their brethren of rich discussion and the exploration of ideas.
 
How can we, as individual travelers with individual interests and journeys shift our center, or refocus our masonic attention to topical, substantive, informative masonic facets of our own choosing? I offer you these suggestions: 

1. Personal Study. Go forth and find the topics or questions that capture your attention, then go out and research the answers and learn about the topic to your own satisfaction. There are plenty of resources like books, podcasts, Vlogs, Blogs, speakers, masonic conferences, and more. Once you have answered your question, or learned about your topic, you will find it vastly rewarding to share your newfound knowledge with brethren of your lodge and, perhaps, other lodges; do not hold your new knowledge as a “masonic secret” that you keep close. When you share knowledge, you will find knowledge seekers – perhaps not every brother in your lodge, but passion attracts the passionate.

2. Organize Topic-specific Meeting Nights. Perhaps your lodge is one that only has one meeting a month – the dreaded stated meeting. In this situation, prepare the materials on the topic you are interested in and ask the Worshipful Master if you can schedule two hours of lodge time some evening to provide a program. If it is successful, plan out four or five months’ worth of programs where your topics can be presented and members can attend knowing why they are there and what to expect. An active schedule offers brothers choices and opportunities to grow and expand their knowledge. Do not be discouraged if only a few brothers attend, rather understand you’ve tapped into the curious of your lodge in search of masonic substance and seize the initiative! If your lodge isn’t offering an experience or opportunity you are interested in beyond the stated meeting, create it and offer it yourself. 

3. Start a Club. Clubs are growing in popularity and can offer you and your brother’s terrific opportunities to enjoy programs, experiences, or topical education based on commonality with other brothers. Book clubs provide brother opportunities to read and discuss masonic books. A masonic history club might provide for discussions on the history and origin of freemasonry or historical events in masonry. The type of a club is limited really only by the imagination of the brothers. Set a schedule and provide form and structure so that brothers incorporate it as a serious aspect of their masonic life and actually plan time around it. Clubs can have discussions or speakers, and they can travel on “field trips”, all of which can strengthen the bond of brotherly love and affection among lodge members.
 
4. Travel! Travel and visit lodges as often as you can. Meet brothers; enjoy their programs and degree work. Offer a program from your lodge to other lodges and then travel to those lodges to provide it. Traveling offers terrific opportunities to provide and receive education, expand your masonic network, assist other lodges, and learn about other masonic activities. You might even see if another local lodge has its own clubs that you might visit.

In all of these suggestions, the key to your success will be communication. Publicize, announce, and discuss your plans and programs with other brothers. When you announce a program or club meeting, use your local lodge means of communication to spread the word. Some lodges use social media, some use email groups, and some use combinations of several means. Find out which you can use and spread the word to grow your support! Announce your program nights, advertise your club, discuss your planned visits to other lodges – you never know who may come along as part of their own search for “more”. 

Ultimately it is up to each one of us to assess and define our relationship with masonry and decide if our journey is going in the direction that satisfies our interests and our desires. There are some simple tools a brother can use to implement change and to focus his masonry on a firm and satisfying center. Those tools are:
 
Ask – ask your lodge leaders and brethren for their ideas, guidance and counsel for opportunities and content that fulfill your longing for intellectually satisfying experiences. Identify the influencers in your lodge and ask them for their support and active participation. Ask experienced brothers how to implement your ideas an invite them to see your results. 

Seek – seek the content and those opportunities for personal growth and ways to ignite or tap into those sentiments among your brothers. Search outside the confines of the stated meeting and your lodge in your effort and consult with learned brothers on their opinions, experiences, and recommendations on how to turn your aspirations into reality. Find those resources that address your own questions and thirst for knowledge. 

Knock
– knock on the door; take those first actions and steps that set your ideas into motion. Alarm the brethren of your lodge that an opportunity has arrived and is ready to be admitted, recognized, and engaged. 

Ask, Seek, Knock; these are the working tools of change. We talk of change, and we talk of a hunger for substance and direction, yet often our working tools remain silent and unused. It is time to blow the dust off your working tools. I believe once we identify our priorities and assess whether we are addressing them, and then employ our working tools, the dreaded stated meeting will naturally gravitate to its rightful place in our collective masonic experience, that of a necessary administrative function that supports your lodge separate and apart from your loftier, masonic pursuits.

Waiting for change to come to you someday in the future will ensure that change will never come. Set your own change in motion and zealously pursue your interests, and you will find that a rich and fulfilling masonic experience outside and apart from the stated meeting awaits. Ask, Seek, Knock, and focus on the masonry that excites and challenges you. Lodges are simply our universal construct providing us the infrastructure and initial lessons to use in designing our individual masonic journeys. Masonry is universal and it is up to each of us how we apply ourselves to masonry and masonry to our lives. Do not allow yourself to be distracted and lulled into focusing on the stated meeting as the center of your Masonic universe.

~WHB


Bro. William H. Boyd was raised at Somerset Lodge #1205 in Somerset, Texas in January 1999. He has presided over several appendant bodies and served as Worshipful Master of Valley-Hi Lodge #1407 in San Antonio, Texas in 2015 – 2016 and was then selected and appointed District Deputy Grand Master for Masonic District #39A of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Texas in 2017. Following his service as DDGM, he served as District Education Officer, also for District #39A. Bro. Boyd continues his service to the craft through administration of his “BroBill’s Masonic Education” Facebook group for Master Masons, where he shares educational material and papers on lodge administration policies and procedures. You can contact Bro.Boyd at whboyd@gmail.com.

The Anti-Social Impact of Social Media

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert E. Jackson


I was done…I had to quit. For my own mental stability (whatever was left) I just couldn't participate in the world of social media any longer. I've heard of others quitting, and removing themselves from the vitriol, but for so long I found humor and comradery in social media that brought me closer to friends past and present. However, within the dumpster fire of 2020, the good no longer outweighed the bad. In order to maintain a connection, I had to disconnect.

As I've written about before, I've been struggling with depression for years, most likely the vast majority of my life. The Brotherhood I found in Masonry helped with a great deal of those struggles, finding like minded men, socially interacting, and learning to accept our differences with an unconditional Love. Oftentimes, trying to understand these differences, the intent of their actions, causes doubts in our own personal evaluations. The Brotherly charity we exercise usually provides a bidirectional Love and understanding, but in the world of social media, sometimes even among Brothers, that charity seems to fade.

I started realizing that the more I saw on social media, the more upset I became. There was no opportunity for discussion or understanding. As the articles and posts arose, I found myself researching and trying to understand the motivation, the intent. The urge to understand each side became almost an obsession, and eventually, every post, every article, I found to be offensive and hurtful. I'm putting this out there because I found it hard to believe that I'm the only one that feels this, that struggles with the understanding.

With the perception of offense and hurt, I started wondering if I was just too weak, too sensitive. My own personal value dropped, further impacting my already low self esteem. I knew that no matter what I wrote, no matter how I countered, it wouldn't matter. I wasn't going to change anybody's mind, neither did I feel like I had the right to try.

Don't get me wrong, there is a clear positive side of social media. You are able to keep in contact with past and current friends. You can learn through incredible online lectures and presentations to entertain and educate. Especially now when our ability to interact in person has been so stifled, our dependency on social media has skyrocketed. Unfortunately, the common issue of "fear of missing out," sometimes referred to as "FOMO," grows with that increased dependency on electronic socializing. Even to the point where we hear about lectures and presentations after the fact, there is a sadness in not being able to attend, or worse, not being invited.

This fear of missing out, fear of exclusion, has driven mankind to horrible actions in the past. Is it possible to wholeheartedly believe that the world you see is curated, and what you’re seeing isn’t real? Or do those images settle within the recesses brain, always making you wonder if you’ve made a wrong decision, or just aren’t worthy? Almost as if you’re an outsider, unable to gain access to the inner circle of life without the proper password. That inner circle, however, is filled with little more than perception and imagination. These fabrications of the mind germinate and fertilize our pain, thereby feeding the FOMO.

There is another fear within the realm of social media, seemingly much more rare than FOMO, and that's the fear of rejection. Fear that whatever you post, whether serious or intended for humor, will offend or hurt somebody. At best, they will appreciate the humor, and laugh with you. Others may keep their feelings to themselves. At worst, however, the judge and jury of social media commit you to death. Before you know it, you've been labeled with one of the many labels we seem to inflict on ourselves and those around us. For many it appears they can compartmentalize these rebuttals, and shrug them off. To me, it's a horrible feeling of rejection, denial, and suppression of thought. When I see these attacks happening among Brothers, friends, acquaintances, the pain becomes personal, regardless of my involvement in the ‘conversation.’ 



The engineer in me must identify the source that drives these attacks. Is there an anger embedded so deep within humanity that continues to grow unchecked? Or perhaps the problem is solely within myself, being too ‘soft,’ allowing the worst of humanity to penetrate my own Sanctum Sanctorum and discounting the ‘good’ in the world. It just appears to me that an increasing number of people want the anger, the fighting, as the best way to conquer a people is to divide them. This belief brings about a level of contempt for the attacker, and likely my current disdain for "news" (and now social) media. It seems like in these areas all we see are the attacks and wrongdoings of the 'others.'

The contempt that grows within myself, however, doesn’t eradicate the need to understand the motivations and the intent of the attacker. My heart, however, lies with those being attacked. Even if I disagree with their position , I feel they deserve to be heard and as humans we should work to understand. The communication and charity, true tolerance, must happen if we are going to dampen the anger. However, in the world of COVID 19, loss of freedoms, and severe racial disputes, it feels completely hopeless. The rage and hatred, regardless of where people lie on the political spectrum, feels like a poison spreading through our society. The problem is, legislation, social distancing, and required face coverings appear to spread the poison, rather than curtail it.

When I discuss with an effort to understand, and perhaps appear to defend those attacked, I feel the hatred and anger directed to me. What have I done? I just want them to see the other side, try to understand where people are coming from, but now I've hurt the very people I care about. What I want, my desires, and through my actions, have now caused more pain; and I do hope that we can all agree that this world needs less pain. What consistently eludes us all is the path to get there.

I firmly believe that path is hidden within our rituals, within the lessons of Freemasonry. A path that has been laid out by some of the greatest thinkers of humanity. However, only those that seek the path will ever find it. Even upon search, it is possible that we’ll become lost within our own thoughts. I truly fear this cycle of pain will continue, progressively getting worse, until the very foundation of humanity, true Charity, crumbles to dust. My Brothers, my Friends, I need help. We all need help. How do we arrange the Harmony within this Chaos? How do we uncover the Benevolence in the face of Anger? Can we even right this ship, or shall we simply release the tiller, embrace the suffering, and allow the wind to carry us to that “undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns.”

~REJ

Robert Edward Jackson is a Past and presiding Master 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

Returning to Lodge: Planning the Trestleboard during a Pandemic

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Michael Arce


In Masonic jurisdictions across the United States, Brothers are anxiously anticipating the return to Lodge meetings. Virtual meetings kept us connected through computer screens and cellphones during the virus shutdown. Sure, they were a great fix, but no one would suggest that distance-meetings are a permanent solution to replacing face-to-face meetings. For one, Freemasonry is unique in the ritual performed to open and close our Lodge meetings. The standard of character for each man in attendance, decorum for the room, and respect of the traditions during a Lodge meeting are lost when dialing into a virtual meeting from my kitchen table.

In New York State, the last Lodge meeting I attended was Monday, March 2nd, when we raised two new Brothers in their 3rd Degree. There was talk that evening due to the impending coronavirus outbreak in New York City that it may be some time before we would be able to meet again safely. April 2nd, our Grand Master, MW Willaim M. Sardone, issued a proclamation that postponed all Masonic activities and events until further notice. Looking back at my calendar, Monday, April 13th, was my first "Virtual Masonic Meeting" hosted by Masters Lodge #5 in Albany, New York. I remember thinking there would be five of us that night since this was my first attempt to attend online. As it would turn out, there were almost 20 Brothers in attendance that night! The virtual meetings continued through the end of our Masonic year in June with education programs, discussions, and after-hours conversations that stayed late in the evening.

As the dark months of summer set in, Brothers would check the Grand Lodge of New York State's website, hoping for an update from our Grand Master on when Lodge's could reopen. Like small business owners, those working from home, or Americans furloughed due to the pandemic; we sought even the slightest sign of normalcy in an era of confusion. One tradition I want to share from my jurisdiction that brought relief every evening is the 9PM Toast to Absent Brethern on our District's private Facebook group page. Every evening, a new Brother would honor posting a toast, each putting his personal mark on the event. "To our absent Brothers, may we soon be reunited."



On July 2nd, the Grand Master released his edict authorizing Lodges to resume regular activity. We were allowed to hold a rare member-only (Mother Lodge) meeting over the summer for the sole purpose of the election and installation of officers. Freemasonry was back in New York State! At least, for now... that was the concern, "what happens if we have to shut things down again?" A few days after the Grand Master's letter, I invited the officers of my Lodge over for dinner. We gathered outside on my patio, each Brother sitting six feet apart, for burgers and a beer. This was the first time the five of us had gotten together in months. I'm sure you can imagine what the main conversation topic was that night.

Lodge. Precisely, what would the Trestleboard resemble in September?

The conversation picked up again a week later when the officer line met to plot calendar dates for a second time. This was my second experience working with a Master on his Trestleboard. I can see why it is sometimes referred to as a tracing board, in that, dates and events are often subject to change due to several reasons. The DDGM's Official Visit, weather, degrees... so many factors can affect even the best-laid plans. Since our Lodge meets twice a month, September was easy to plot. The first meeting will be the election and officer installation. Our second meeting falls in October, "we'll do a walkabout of the Lodge," the Master suggested. When we turned the page to November an air of uncertainty was detected. We usually host a Thanksgiving Dinner on the second meeting of the month, which serves as the Lodge fundraiser. "Are we going to be able to plan for food for more than our immediate members this year," one Brother asked. "Are we even going to be able to have a meeting," I said out loud.

A hush fell.

A segment of Masons fall into the category of "at-risk" due to their age or underlying health conditions (or both). And we were aware of the increase of coronavirus cases being reported in July, having experienced the spring shutdown in New York State; a resurgence of COVID-19 was a real possibility. We all agreed that even with the strictest safety protocols in place, following the guidelines of wearing a mask, no physical contact in the Lodge room, physical distancing, and washing of hands - history does not guarantee that we would be able to hold a meeting. Sensing the stress in the group, I asked a question to change the subject.

"Are there any records in our archives or minutes of how the Lodge operated during the Spanish Flu?" All eyes turned to our Past Master, Michael A. Hernandez. He is deeply familiar with the history of Mount Vernon Lodge #3. It was soon apparent that Bro. Hernandez had searched the archives. He looked up and said, "On Monday, October 21st, 1918, the following resolution was adopted. 'Resolved that out of respect of the order of the civil authorities forbidding any public or private assemblage on account of an epidemic of influenza, this meeting should be closed until our next stated communication, unless specially convened.'"

That was it? The Spanish Flu devasted the United States for two years, and, I'm sorry, the only record was one sentence?

Bro. Hernandez understood my surprise. He shared his idea to include a letter and accompanying correspondence to be added to the Lodge's permanent records. Below is a portion of his letter that I found moving.

"While these materials can in no way serve as a complete and comprehensive synopsis of what transpired during these several months, we do hope that it will serve as a memorial and testament to the fact that during this time this Lodge and Freemasonry endured."

In our Old 17th District Facebook group, I asked if any Lodge Secretary had a Lodge record from the Spanish Flu. I want to thank RW Timothy Smith, Secretary of Mount Zion Lodge #311, for contributing this letter. It's dated October 17, 1918. What is significant about this time is that the city of San Fransisco had implemented a shutdown and enforced mask-wearing in public that fall to combat the Spanish Flu spread. The city ended up with nearly 45,000 cases and over 3,000 reported deaths. While Americans were dealing with a pandemic at home, in Europe, our soldiers were fighting in World War I. This communication is with Bro. George Barnes, an Army Corporal, stationed in France during WW1. It is very possible that his unit was part of the Aisne Offensive during the summer of 1918.



In his book, The Life of Reason: The Phases of Human Progress, Spanish-born American philosopher George Santayana wrote the famous line, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." As we look ahead, into the uncertainty that is our future during this pandemic, I find it reassuring that Freemasonry (in some form) has been present before written record. We are students of history who seek to learn the ancients' secrets, collect knowledge, preserve it, and build a better tomorrow. We have been tried and never denied --- we have survived my Brothers. Let us follow the principles of Friendship, Morality, and Brother Love as we consider our interactions and responsibility during these unprecedented times.

I want to include this line in Bro. Hernandez's letter to future Brothers as his words capture the spirit of how we best come together to serve and work.

"As we moved beyond this initial uncertainty and trepidation, many of our Brothers took it upon themselves to reach out to each other and offer any assistance that their circumstances permitted them to offer. Additionally, numerous acts of kindness and generosity were recorded, which manifested in tangible ways the principles and tenets of our Venerable Institution at a time when the world needed them most."

~MA

Brother Michael Arce is a member of Mt. Vernon Lodge #3 in Albany, New York. When not in Lodge, Bro. Arce is the Marketing Manager for Capital Cardiology Associates in Albany, New York. He enjoys meeting new Brothers and hearing how the Craft has enriched their lives. He can be reached at michael.arce@me.com

Freemasonry In The Age Of COVID

by Midnight Freemasons Founder
Todd E. Creason, 33°

I can't believe nobody is marketing lapel pin masks yet . . .

I remember as a kid that first day of school in the fall.  Standing out beside the road waiting for the school bus with my brand new Trapper Keeper, and my unopened box of crayons, and looking forward to seeing my friends again.  Summers were long in the country.  Sometimes they seemed endless, and by the time fall rolled around I was ready to go back to school.  I was reminded of this the other night as I got ready to go to my first Lodge meeting in four months.  Those same kind of memories came back to me.  Laughing over a meal. Talking to friends out in the parking lot long after the meeting ended.  The work we do together.  The lessons we learn together. 

I get so tired of hearing the term “new normal.”  Masonry will adapt in the short term, but I believe it will not be that much different in the long term.  This too shall pass, and the essential elements of Masonry will stand for generations to come.  If anything, I think this break we’ve had, and this period of adjustment we’ve had has made us stronger.  It slowed us all down.  We’ve had more time when we’re not running around doing things to appreciate life, to take stock in what’s important, and to think about how we might do things differently going forward. 

A few weeks ago, my good friend and Brother Bill Hosler made a good point on the Meet, Act, and Part Podcast.  He said we’ve gotten back to “the essence of Masonry” during this time apart.  And I think he’s right—I think Greg Knott and Darin Lahners who were part of the conversation would also agree.  We’ve gotten back to what we’re all about just lately.  We’re checking in on our older members and widows like we should have been doing all along.  We’re helping each other.  We’ve been innovative in ways we haven’t been in decades.  We’ve been creative in ways we haven’t in generations.  We’ve even found a few tools that exist that will survive a lot longer than this virus will.  And the fellowship is actually been stronger in our absence from one another than it was when we were all together all the time.  I’ve gotten more phone calls and emails from friends in the last four months than I probably have in the last four years--a few others I've spoken to have said the same thing.

I hope some of this lasts once the memory of this international “break” in the day-to-day fades from our memory. I hope we all remember just how important Masonry became to us when suddenly it vanished from our lives in a significant way for a time.  I hope we remember and appreciate how much our friends mean to us.  I hope we remember how much our communities mean to us.  I hope we remember what we all did to help each other get through this as Brothers.

It was great walking back in my Lodge again last week.  Hearing the all too familiar sounds of laughter coming from the Lodge room.  I’ve missed my fraternal family.

~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

Esoteric Woodworking and Bridges

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
RWB Spencer Hamann


What is a bridge? For many the term “bridge” conjures imagery of architecture: a structure, perhaps a grand triumph of engineering and design or simple lash up of ropes and boards, spanning a body of water, canyon, or some other difficult geographic feature. Taking a step back abstractly, a bridge is something that connects. A bridge allows one to move from one place to another place that would have otherwise been unreachable or at least difficult to reach. In this way, a bridge can also represent unification. This imagery also arises when we sever ties (“burn bridges”), prioritize planning (“cross that bridge when we come to it”), overreach (“a bridge too far”), and resolve conflict (“bridge the gap” leading to “water under the bridge”).

A bridge is also the name given to a critical component of many musical instruments, including bowed orchestral strings. Violins, violas, celli, and double basses all rely on a component called a bridge for their functionality, playability, and sound production. As the instrument’s strings pass over the top of the bridge, the bridge holds the strings in a particular alignment, in a carefully calculated position, and in a precisely fitted union with the instrument itself. What appears on the surface to be a fussily carved slip of wood actually contains far more mystery and complexity than first meets the eye.

To begin with, not just any piece of wood is suitable to become an orchestral string bridge. The traditional timber of choice is maple, specifically maple from particular species of old-growth trees which have grown in such climate, region, and situation to have even grain, solid density, and clear consistency. But the selection process goes further than that. The tree itself must be felled, prepared, and cut in a careful and mindful way as not to damage the timber. Only some parts of the tree trunk itself are of the quality required to become a stable and acoustically fine bridge, and this wood must be further cut and prepared specifically with consideration to grain orientation to become a bridge.

All of this material harvesting usually contains the additional element of time. Raw maple cut from the tree is aged for years, often decades, to allow for the gradual and controlled release of moisture from when the tree was alive. Without this drying, aging, and stabilizing, the maple will be too flimsy to support the load of the instrument’s strings and will buckle under the pressure. It is a rather curiously poetic aspect of the luthier’s art that depending on his age or the aging requirements of the material, the person putting in the work to prepare the raw wood for a specific purpose may confront the fact that he himself will never get to make use of it in his own lifetime: his preparation work becomes an act of selflessness and hope for a future craftsman and the craft he loves.

Having finally obtained the piece of wood specially prepared and destined to become a violin’s bridge, the luthier needs to establish the general parameters of the bridge itself. Each bridge is an individual: like a fingerprint, no two will be exactly alike. However, there are some traditional conventions for how bridges are formed. The bridge itself will be carved to have several distinct features, most of which carry anatomical names within the luthier’s craft. To name but a few of these features, from the bottom up, we have feet, ankles, kidneys, arms, and moustache. Establishing these features requires the careful and strategic removal of material using fine tools including drills, saws, knives, and chisels. When the piece has been carefully divested of these base superfluities, it resembles the finished shape, but is not yet a true bridge. A luthier would call this piece a “blank”, and it contains within it the potential to become a functional bridge.

The luthier next turns his attention to the instrument that is to receive the bridge, as the parameters required to further refine the blank bridge rest within the instrument itself. There is much to prepare, and fitting a bridge is one of the final culminating steps in the process of giving an instrument a voice. Before the bridge can meet the instrument, a slender spruce rod must be meticulously fit within the instrument, connecting the top and back plates from within. This piece is called the soundpost, or “anima” in Italian: the soul. Although the soundpost is tucked away inside the instrument, all fitting and preparation work on this piece is done from outside of the instrument. The contact points of the soundpost must match exactly the curvatures and contours of the INSIDE of the instrument’s top and back, and it is only through careful work, concentration, and patient trial work that a luthier brings it into perfect upright fit and positioning within the instrument.

The soundpost is what makes a violin family instrument fundamentally different from other stringed instruments such as, say, a guitar. The strings of a guitar vibrate primarily only the top of the instrument, and the back of the “box” which forms the guitar’s body serves to primarily reflect the vibrations up and out of the instrument. On a violin, the soundpost transfers the vibrations of the instrument’s top to the back as well, causing the entire instrument to vibrate together. This effect can be imagined as the difference between having one speaker playing alone, or two speakers playing together.


Returning to the bridge from this digression, the soundpost influences the shape of the instrument’s top, which in turn influences the shape of the bridge. The location of the bridge on the instrument’s top is determined by what is called the “mensur”, which is a 2:3 ratio calculated between the length of the instrument’s neck and the resting position of the bridge on the top of the instrument. With this location established, the bottoms of the bridge’s feet are carved to perfectly match the complex contours of the instrument’s top, creating a positive and stable foundational stance and excellent transfer of vibration.

Next to be considered is the height the bridge will need to be. A bridge must lift the strings above the instrument’s fingerboard, the part where the musician’s fingers interact with the strings to produce different notes, which must also be specially prepared to be smooth, true, and of the proper angle relative to the instrument’s top. If the bridge is too tall, the strings may play more loudly but be difficult or even uncomfortable for the player to control. If the bridge is too short, the instrument may feel very easy to play, but have limited depth or even a choked sound. If the space between the strings is not carefully established, precision and articulation can suffer. Balance is key.

Additionally, the height at which the bridge holds the strings is different for each string. Each string has a different diameter, is made from different materials, will tune up to different tensions, and as such, require different amounts of space to vibrate. If all strings were fit equally to the same height, the instrument could still play but not all strings would be able to speak clearly, and the result would be imbalance with favor toward particular tones while others are drowned out.

At this stage, the bridge has been prepared, and it has even been mechanically introduced and fit to the world around it. But the bridge is still not finished. The final steps in the process are the fine tuning and carving which strategically remove excess material, artistically distinguish the bridge’s shape, and acoustically fine-tune the way the bridge will vibrate. It is not enough for the bridge to simply be of the correct material, or the correct mechanical fit: only skilled adjustment stemming from the luthier’s years of trial, error, triumph, failure, and refinement can allow it to reach its potential. As these methods of adjustment are internalized and refined, so is the instrument’s voice.

It is also of particular interest to note that an orchestral string instrument’s bridge literally stands on its own two feet. There is no mechanical connection between the strings, bridge, and instrument: the pressure of the strings hold the bridge upright on the top of the instrument. If the bridge has been made from well prepared material, and further patiently and knowledgably fit, it will be able to withstand the tension and purpose placed upon it as it bridges the body of the instrument to the pure vibrating strings above it.

These pure vibrations are the ultimate purpose of a violin, but the bridge must undergo considerable transformative work in order to realize them. From a rough and raw state, the bridge is prepared for the great work to come as it is hewn from the superfluous material around it using tools designed to properly establish its foundation and form. From here, the bridge undergoes precise refinement to shape it and equip it for its eventual purpose. Yet even after considerable time spent and skill invested, the bridge is still only a piece of material. It is the final transmutation, when it is fit to the instrument, that the bridge ceases to become just a piece of wood, and sheds its pervious identity to experience rebirth in unity with the sublime vibrations of the musical instrument.

In the great cosmic scheme, each individual is but one small manifestation. In and of itself, a violin’s bridge is but one component of the instrument. The bridge does not alone define the macrocosm of instrument, but it does allow an instrument to exemplify itself only if the microcosm of the bridge (and each of the instrument’s other components) is in order. A musical instrument is a magical thing in that it can be used to reach far more people than can physically see it. That is, the vibrations it produces through its use in making music can transcend language, country, creed, and even time and space. Quantum physics is ever expanding our understanding of how vibration is at the core of all matter, and music distilled is nothing but a collection of vibrations.



Vast as the implications and applications of producing sound are, they only come with work. Knowledge of how to guide a tool counts for very little if it is not applied in a constructive way, and no one can hold the tool for you. Willingness to learn, adjust, practice, and correct our own vibrations is the first step in bridging the expanses between ourselves and those around us. It is inevitable that we will occasionally fall short, but this may be the will of something far greater than ourselves at play guiding us to where we are meant to be. This work can be painful as we are divested of what is unnecessary, but mastery starts within, and often silently. It is not until we are able to master the art of crafting ourselves that we can hope to build true bridges between the things that divide us, and realize that we are all notes in the same grand transcendent symphony.

~SAH

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 spencer@sahamann.com

Losing My Father

by Senior Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Gregory J. Knott


Last month, my father Jack Knott passed away. It was sudden, despite visible signs of his health in decline. I was away and my brother called me early in the morning to tell me that our father had fallen and had a stroke. It was serious and he was unlikely to survive.

My Father had made his wishes abundantly clear, if something like a stroke happened he did not want to be put on life support equipment. He put these wishes in writing and had them on file with the hospital. It made the tough decision for our family easier, knowing that his wishes were being carried out. By the end of the afternoon, he had passed away.

These events are always a whirlwind of activity, funeral arrangements had to be made, extended family notified, etc. It seems to all go so fast. Again thankfully my father had made his wishes known and things came together fairly quickly.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, having a traditional midwestern style visitation and funeral wasn’t practical. We opted for a simple graveside service. Our cousin officiated the service, Midnight Freemasons Founder Todd Creason read a poem that my Dad had left and the family would be given an opportunity to speak. The ceremony concluded with my friend and Masonic brother Todd Hitt playing Amazing Grace on the bagpipes.

My daughter Riley gave an amazing talk about what her Grandpa had meant to her. They had been particularly close since she was born. My dad had retired a couple of years before she was born and was one of her primary baby-sitters as my wife and I worked. It was a real gift that both my children knew him and their grandmother so well. Memories for a lifetime.

Dad was a people person first and foremost. I had put a note on Facebook of his passing and it received over 500 comments. He knew so many people and had so much impact on them, it was simply amazing to read all the comments. Students who had worked for Dad more than 40 years ago, spoke about how he had such an influence on their careers and how much they had learned from him that they took into the workplace.

My Dad was an excellent singer and especially enjoyed visiting area nursing homes to sing for the residents. He was a bright spot in their day. My Great-Grandmother and my dad were especially close. She loved to hear him sing, so my dad produced an album of him singing gospel songs for her in the early 1970’s. Dad wrote one song himself that he titled, “He Was Only 33”, referring to the age and story of Jesus Christ when he was crucified.

While my Dad was not a member of the Masonic Fraternity, he always came to our events and supported the work that we do. The Entered Apprentice is asked during the catechism “Where were you first prepared to be a Freemason? The answer is “In my heart.” For my Dad, everything was always first and foremost from his heart.

My Dad will always be with me, in my heart. His example of how he treated others is something that I will strive to emulate. His hard work ethic and good sense of humor were key tools that he used in motivating and working with others. His devotion to his family was exemplary.

Below is the poem, “When Tomorrow Starts Without me” by David Ramano that Todd Creason read at the funeral:.


When Tomorrow Starts Without Me
And I’m not there to see
If the sun should rise and find your eyes
All filled with tears for me.

I wish so much you wouldn’t cry
The way you did today
While thinking of the many things
We didn’t get to say.

I know how much you love me
As much as I love you
And each time that you think of me
I know you’ll miss me too.

But when tomorrow starts without me
Please try to understand
That an angel came and called my name
And he took me by the hand.

And said my place was ready
In heaven far above
And that I’d have to leave behind
All those I dearly love.

But when I walked through heaven’s gates
I felt so much love at home
When God looked down and smiled at me
From His great golden throne.

He said “This is eternity”
And all I’ve promised you
For life on earth is past
But here it starts anew.”

“I promise no tomorrow
For today will always speak last
And since each day’s the same way
There’s no longing for the past.

So when tomorrow starts without me
Don’t think we’re far apart
For every time you think of me
I’m right here in your heart.

In closing, I just want to say thank you Dad for everything. I will love and miss you always.

~GJK


WB Gregory J. Knott is a founding member and Senior Contributor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He is a Past Master of St. Joseph Lodge No. 970 in St. Joseph (IL) and a plural member of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL) and Naval Lodge No. 4 in Washington, DC. He’s a member of the Scottish Rite, the York Rite, Eastern Star and is the Charter Secretary of the Illini High Twelve Club No. 768 in Champaign-Urbana. He is also a member of ANSAR Shrine (IL) and the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees. Greg serves on the Board of Directors of The Masonic Society and is a member of the Scottish Rite Research Society and The Philathes Society. He is a charter member of a new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter U.D. and serves as its Secretary. Greg is very involved in Boy Scouts—an Eagle Scout himself, he is a member of the National Association of Masonic Scouters. You can contact him at gknott63@gmail.com

The Attic

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


In 1816, General William Clark (of the Lewis and Clark Expedition) built what was one of only a few brick houses in St. Louis. Clark used the lower floor for business. Missouri Lodge 12, with its Tennessee charter, met in a room on the second story there from the time Clark completed the house until late 1817. Masons described the house as "poorly adapted for Masonic purposes and inconveniently located." They approached Brother Thompson Douglass, who was constructing a two-story building in the center of town, and persuaded him to add an attic, which the Masons could use. Were that building standing today where it stood in 1817, at its spot in the center of old St. Louis, it would be directly under the gleaming Gateway to the West monument, better known as the St. Louis Arch.

Upon its completion, the Masons moved into the thirty-eight square foot room to conduct their business. There they also founded Missouri Royal Arch Chapter No. 1, and, in 1821, organized the Grand Lodge of Missouri, chartering what today is St. Louis Missouri Lodge 1.

Frederick L. Billon was raised at the age of twenty-two in that very room. Born in 1801, Billon lived to be 94 years of age in a life that spanned virtually all of the 19th century. He served as Missouri's Grand Secretary for many years and thoroughly chronicled Missouri Masonry during that time. In his memoirs, he talks about one particular meeting in that third-story room which he attended on Friday April 29, 1825.

That evening, the young Brother, still a relatively new Mason, ascended the creaky wooden stairs and as he entered the Lodge room, he discovered two visitors. In Billon's words, "we were honored by a visit from our Nation's distinguished guest, our illustrious Brother General Lafayette, on the occasion of his visit to St. Louis, accompanied by his son George Washington Lafayette, on which occasion they were both duly elected Honorary members of our Grand Lodge." The United States had invited the 68-year-old French aristocrat, who had supported our country and commanded American troops in the Revolution, to tour the country.

Billon writes, "This room was used for Masonic purposes… until the close of the year 1833, when Missouri Lodge No. 1, under the pressure of circumstances, ceased her labors for a time, and the Grand Lodge was removed to Columbia Boone County." The so-called "pressure of circumstances" he mentions is a euphemism for the brutal aftermath of the Morgan affair.

For sixteen years that nondescript room provided an auspicious venue for the formation of the Grand Lodge of Missouri and served as its Grand Lodge offices. It also saw the formation of Missouri's first Lodge, the first Missouri Royal Arch Chapter, was a reception room for the great Lafayette, hosted the ceremony honoring him, and saw countless other Masonic ceremonies and events – all this in an attic that was conceived as an afterthought.
It's graphic proof that it doesn't matter where Brothers meet; rather it matters how they meet, act and part.

~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 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.

Opus Galli Anonymi

by Midnight Freemasons Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners


I was sitting at my desk in the AITS building on the south end of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s research park when I received either a text or instant message from fellow Midnight Freemason contributor Greg Knott. Greg worked at the Main Library at that point, and his message simply said something along the lines of “If you want to see the Newton document, be here at 2:45PM”. I don't remember the exact time, but you can bet that I immediately spoke to my supervisor about allowing me to take the time off to be at the Main Library building at the time that Greg mentioned. This was in May of 2018.

Yes, it’s taken me over two years to write this article. I’ve wanted to write it for a long time, however both Greg and I made a promise to a library employee to not discuss what occurred or share photos of the document on social media. At the time, the library had recently acquired “Opus Galli Anonymi” by Sir Isaac Newton at auction. I think that the idea was that while the document was available to the public, due to the historical significance of the item, the employee did not want to give the impression that one could walk in and demand to see it.

“Opus Galli Anonymi” is a Newton’s manuscript translation of an anonymous French work detailing the creation of the philosopher’s stone into Latin. His inscription on front wrapper below title 'Opus galli anonymi' indicates that the procedures described in the text are similar to that of the French alchemical physician Pierre-Jean Fabre in his work L'abregé des secrets chymiques. No comparable source text is known, however. Newton's heavy emendations and corrections suggest that he was not merely transcribing, but extemporaneously creating an original translation from the French text, possibly with his own interpretations and elucidations. [i]


While there is no evidence that supports that Newton was a Freemason, he was very close friends with the Rev. John Theophilus Desaguliers. There is also a lodge, Isaac Newton University Lodge #859, which is for primarily made up of alumni and current students of Cambridge University. It is undeniable however that Newton was an alchemist.

Several documents other documents indicate an interest by Newton in the procurement or development of the philosopher's stone. Most notably are documents entitled Artephius his secret Book, followed by The Epistle of Iohn Pontanus, wherein he beareth witness of ye book of Artephius; these are themselves a collection of excerpts from another work entitled Nicholas Flammel, His Exposition of the Hieroglyphicall Figures which he caused to be painted upon an Arch in St Innocents Church-yard in Paris. Together with The secret Booke of Artephius, And the Epistle of Iohn Pontanus: Containing both the Theoricke and the Practicke of the Philosophers Stone. This work may also have been referenced by Newton in its Latin version found within Lazarus Zetzner's Theatrum Chemicum, a volume often associated with the Turba Philosophorum and other early European alchemical manuscripts. Nicolas Flamel, one subject of the aforementioned work, was a notable, though mysterious figure, often associated with the discovery of the philosopher's stone, hieroglyphical figures, early forms of tarot, and occultism. Artephius, and his "secret book", were also subjects of interest to 17th-century alchemists.

There is also The Epitome of the treasure of health written by Edwardus Generosus Anglicus innominatus who lived Anno Domini 1562. This is a twenty-eight-page treatise on the philosopher's stone, the Animal or Angelicall Stone, the Prospective stone or magical stone of Moses, and the vegetable or the growing stone. The treatise concludes with an alchemical poem.[ii]


Newton also extensively studied and wrote about the Temple of Solomon, dedicating an entire chapter of The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms Amended due to his knowledge of and fascination with the temple. While a scholar of the bible, Newton was also interested in the sacred geometry of Solomon's Temple, such as golden sections, conic sections, spirals, orthographic projection, and other harmonious constructions, but he also believed that the dimensions and proportions represented more. Newton believed that the temple was designed by King Solomon with divine guidance. To Newton, the geometry of the temple represented more than a mathematical blueprint, it also provided a time-frame chronology of Hebrew history. It was for this reason that he included a chapter devoted to the temple within The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms Amended, a section which initially may seem unrelated to the historical nature of the book as a whole. Newton felt that just as the writings of ancient philosophers, scholars, and Biblical figures contained within them unknown sacred wisdom, the same was true of their architecture. He believed that these men had hidden their knowledge in a complex code of symbolic and mathematical language that, when deciphered, would reveal an unknown knowledge of how nature works.[iii]

Being able to see the document and the handwriting of one of the most influential scientific minds in History is something that I will never be able to forget. We were also able to view the book of Genesis from a Gutenberg bible that was in the library’s collection. I was humbled and honored to be able to view these documents. Being able to share the experience with Greg made it even more memorable. For those of you that are interested, the document can be viewed at: https://digital.library.illinois.edu/items/88be5740-57a1-0136-502d-0050569601ca-8#?cv=13&xywh=-4089%2C317%2C35026%2C11332

~DAL

[i] https://digital.library.illinois.edu/items/88be5740-57a1-0136-502d-0050569601ca-8#?cv=13&xywh=-4089%2C317%2C35026%2C11332
[ii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_Newton%27s_occult_studies#The_Philosopher's_Stone


WB Darin A. Lahners is a Past Master of and Worshipful Master of St. Joseph Lodge No.970 in St. Joseph. He is also a plural member of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), and of Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL), where he is also a Past Master. He’s a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, a charter member of Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282 and is the current Secretary of the Illini High Twelve Club No. 768 in Champaign – Urbana (IL). You can reach him by email at darin.lahners@gmail.com