Ritual Without Reverence Is Meaningless

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Mark St. Cyr


Since my invitation from Bro. Johnson earlier this year to contribute a short series of essays here at the Midnight  Freemasons, discussing a succinct topic and application possibilities via my past business acumen, I had wondered if I  should write anything further. After all, I continually pondered,  “Just who am I, from a Masonic perspective, to speak to the  Craft about the Craft?”  


Although the Craft is full of Masons that know the finest details of how to deliver Ritual and more. Personally, like I’m guessing many others, when I return to Lodge my rustiness will be as much on full display as that seen on cars within a junkyard.  

I know, you know, precisely what I’m addressing. 


Many will be fearful if, or more like when, those in the “whispering section” shake their heads in disbelief, if not outright disgust,  that anyone would allow themselves to let the “basics” appear so sloppily applied, if not, forgotten entirely. 


And it is here I’m going to make a statement that might skip that,  more than likely will send a few into the gnashing of teeth.  However, that’s precisely what I’m paid to do when I speak to an audience of businesspeople whose combined sales figures rival most countries GDP. So, this really isn’t something new for me. 


This point is not a slyly slid, self-serving detail. There’s a reason for it as I’ll explain.  In what I know is a broad brush, I’m going to make a factual statement via my own observance: Everyone tries and does the “What” part of Ritual i.e., Do this first, that second, stand here,  walk here, recite this, and so forth. We have “Degree teams” to show the excellence of delivery, we award for ‘Best In Show” type categories. The list goes on and on.  


There’s a good reason for it, and I’m not denigrating any part of it. So, do not misconstrue my argument. What I am speaking directly to, and is of my own opinion, no one else, is that all of it, yes, all of it is meaningless without reverence to:


The WHY we do it. The reason why the fraternity is struggling is because it has lost  the meaning of: “Why.”  


It is now, to the extent of all else, laser-focused on getting more  and more Masons proficient into the “What” aspect of Ritual,  rather, than addressing the ever-present silent screaming  question of “Why?” Masons recite lectures verbatim with no prompting, word for word, from pure memory. A feat that is worthy of praise and accolades.  Personally, I was floored during my own EA degree when it was delivered to me.  However, with that said, I have had that “silent screaming question” reverberating in my head before joining the Craft. It actually was the driving force that made me “Knock…” 


I thought I would hear, read, be lectured, ____________(fill in your own here) with precisely that as I went to meeting after meeting,  visited other Lodges, attended symposiums put on by governing bodies et cetera. 

Hint: The silence on this topic (e.g., The Why) has been deafening. 


Let me try this to provoke your thinking in asking you a very pointed question that I would like you to answer in the privacy of your own mind, regardless of your rank, jurisdiction or affiliation of a concordant body, which is… 


Who would you be more comfortable to put your faith in as a  Brother, that you can count on when the time demands?: 


One that could recite the longest and most complex lecture verbatim, without prompting, and without a mistake. Yet, cares little for Masonic traditions sept for his involvement in seeking a  higher rank or accolade for the sole purpose of title and awards? 


Or… 


One that can’t remember more than two sentences without needing prompting, shakes with frustration in his inability to be able to perform half as well as he tries to prepare. Yet, has complete and utter reverence into why he’s doing what he’s doing and has such respect for it, he is madder at himself for messing up than a pew full of Past Masters full of scorn for his ineptness? 


I’ll take the latter every time, thank you. And so should you. 


And for those that think I’m off base on all this? I’ll ask you to consider the following… 

Every Mason knows (and will tell you without prompting!) that  George Washington was a Mason, some in great detail. 


What very, very, very few can articulate: Is Why?


Think about it.


~Mark St. Cyr - Freemason

The Gifts of the Magi

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Randy Sanders


Recently as I prepared my meditation space, my mind wandered as it often does.  This time, it was again toward the mixture I like, and that I was getting low on my supplies.  It was time to reorder some resins so I might combine them the way I prefer.  This time I also began thinking of where the supplies might originate, and all the generations using incense before me. We know incense has been used for millennia, whether you find it on temple walls in Egypt and other ancient cultures or simply look in the book of Exodus to note Frankincense called out for use in worship thousands of years ago.

As I meditated that morning, I let thoughts come and go, and recurring was the consideration of the gifts of the Magi as noted in the New Testament book of Matthew.  Out of nowhere, three Magi show up bearing gifts to Mary and Joseph for Jesus.  This is the only major note, but it has a recurring theme in the subject of the gifts.  Gold, we can all agree, would be extremely useful, and while valuable as a commodity, Frankincense was essentially a perfume to most of that time while also used in the temples, and Myrrh was a perfume often used in embalming or around embalming because of the smell.  The usage of incense is repeated in the bible, in other holy books, and passed down through almost every culture.

So who were these Magi?  The only group using that term at the time were the Zoroastrian priests.   The common historical belief is the three visitors of legend weren't actual Oriental Kings, but they were in all likelihood traveling priests of Ahura Mazda.  More on that in some other paper, but the result doesn't change.  The three priests gave their most precious gifts to someone they believed would grow up to be amazing and special.  They gave incense as an equal gift to gold.

But wait, there's more.  Frankincense, like most incense, is sourced from plants.  In this case, Frankincense is the dried resin from the Boswellia plant and was found to have psychoactive antidepressant and antibiotic properties through Johns Hopkins and other university studies.  Even if Myrrh was only considered in funeral rites, and the symbolism of that alone is staggering, Myrrh was known to have other properties as well. The Magi/Priests gave Jesus the gift of two medicinal plants also used in meditation.  I smiled and continued my own morning meditation exercises knowing the secrets weren't lost.  Oh, and if you want my preferred blend, come see me.  I'm happy to tell you in person, and I look forward to our discussions afterward.

~RS

Bro. Randy and his wife Elyana live near St. Louis, Missouri, USA. Randy earned a Bachelors's Degree in Chemistry with an emphasis in Biochemistry, and he works in Telecom IT management. He volunteers as a professional and personal mentor, NRA certified Chief Range Safety Officer, and enjoys competitive tactical pistol, rifle, and shotgun. He has 30 plus years teaching Wing Chun Kung Fu, Chi Kung, and healing arts. Randy served as a Logistics Section Chief on two different United States federal Disaster Medical Assistance Teams over a 12-year span. Randy's Masonic bio includes past Lodge Education Officer for two Symbolic Lodges, Founder of the Wentzville Lodge Book Club, member of the Grand Lodge of Missouri Education Committee, Sovereign Master of the E. F. Coonrod AMD Council No. 493, Co-Librarian of the Scottish Rite Valley of St. Louis, Clerk for the Academy of Reflection through the Valley of Guthrie, and a Facilitator for the Masonic Legacy Society. Randy is a founding administrator for Refracted Light, a full contributor to Midnight Freemasons, and an international presenter on esoteric topics. Randy hosts an ongoing weekly Masonic virtual Happy Hour on Friday evenings. Randy is an accomplished home chef, a certified barbecue judge, raises Great Pyrenees dogs, and enjoys travel and philosophy.

Big John: Freemason or Not?

by Senior Midnight Freemason Contributor
Gregory J. Knott 33° 

Fellow Midnight Freemason Darin Lahners and I were returning from a road trip when we decided to pull off the interstate to visit Metropolis in deep southern Illinois.   If you are a fan of DC Comics, you might recognize Metropolis as the home to Superman.  Superman dutifully watches over downtown Metropolis in front of the Massac County Courthouse and will on a moment's notice leap into action to save the day. 


As Darin and I were traversing our way to Superman, lo and behold we see another super life-sized statue of “Big John”.   Big John stands on east Fifth street in Metropolis in front of the Big John Grocery Store. Big John was the creation of the store owner back in the 1960s and is also very popular with tourists.

As Big John stands watch, he is carrying a bag of groceries, waving to everyone who passes by, and he always has a big smile on his face.  He is dressed in a red polo shirt with brown khaki pants and has on a ….wait for it…... AN APRON!  Now, being a Freemason, I immediately wondered if Big John was a Freemason or not.

How can we determine if Big John is a Freemason?  My first indicator is the huge smile that Big John has on his face.   He appears to be a pleasant individual who enjoys working and helping others.    As a Freemason, our disposition towards others is important as others form an impression of who we are and what we do 

Big John also is waving to passersby which creates an inviting and welcoming atmosphere.   Does your lodge, chapter, etc, create a warm and welcoming atmosphere that brothers want to return to?   Are you actively engaging new brothers in helping them get acclimated to the lodge, helping them understand what happens within the lodge, and encouraging them to come back?  Are you a mentor to others and assisting them to grow?

Carrying a bag of groceries shows me that Big John is proud of his work.   He appears to have his 24-inch gauge well situated with 8 hours for his usual vocation and probably utilizes the other 16 hours in helping others, learning and resting, and refreshing himself.   How do you utilize your 24-inch gauge?   Are you effectively managing your time and putting forth your best efforts in your career, to your family, and community?  Are you taking time for yourself and caring for your health and mental well-being?

Finally, I notice that the apron Big John is wearing is in perfect condition and unspotted to the world.   As Freemasons, it is our duty and obligation to keep our aprons pristine and unspotted for the world.   Not only our physical apron but keep our daily lives unspotted as we seek to do our best for others, contribute positively to our communities, and further our own personal growth through continued learning and engagement with others.

Big John, Freemason or Not?   My conclusion is yes, Big John is a Freemason.  

~GJK

Gregory J. Knott, 33° 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

Brother Richard Dreyfuss Speaking This Friday

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson




In 2011 The Grand Lodge of Washington D.C. took Mr Richard Dreyfuss and made him a Freemason. He then went on to become a 32˚ degree Brother as well. Ten years before this, a film was produced called, Mr. Dreyfuss goes to Washington. The film is a an exploration of the US Capital and its monuments. The film teaches us about our nation and our founders--our values. Among these values is civics.

Brother Dreyfuss has always believed in the idea of Civics and what it means to be an American. In 2008, the Richard Dreyfus Civics Initiative was created. His unique perspectives tend to inspire. You can catch a ted talk about bringing civic education back to the classroom here.

Civics and Freemasonry go hand in hand. Civics is not politics, but rather, for Freemasons, it might relate  those things you agree to when becoming a Freemason. It is your (civic) duty to conform and to stand up for those things that we're called to do--to be an informed citizen. Not much is taught in the way of civics in today's learning environments. This makes it doubly important that Freemasonry make an impact on our communities and our spheres of influence.

The only reason I have for this post today, is to let you know that Brother Dreyfuss is going to be joining a webinar where he is interviewed by several well known Freemasons that you all know. And this will be happening this Friday at 6:00 P.M. Central. We've got space for 500 and the overflow will go to the Valley of Washington D.C. Scottish Rite's Facebook feed.

The event is free and I hope you can join us.

Register by visiting www.tinyurl.com/aasrdreyfuss

~RHJ

RWB Johnson is a Co-Managing Editor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He is a Freemason out of the 2nd N.E. District of Illinois. He currently serves as the Secretary of Spes Novum Lodge No. 1183. He is a Past Master of Waukegan Lodge 78 and a Past District Deputy Grand Master for the 1st N.E. District of Illinois. He is the current V:. Sovereign Grand Inspector for AMD in IL. 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", “The Master’s Word: A Short Treatise on the Word, the Light, and the Self – Annotated Edition” and author of "How to Charter a Lodge: A No-Nonsense, Unsanctioned Guide. More books are on the way.

Moral Courage in the Lodge Room

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners


This past weekend, I had the opportunity to travel to Kentucky with Senior Midnight Freemason contributor, Greg Knott.  Greg has a home right off of Lake Barkley.  Saturday while trying to decide what to do, I asked Greg if he had ever been to the Patton Museum of Armor at Fort Knox.  Greg had not, and after deciding that it wasn't too far away; we took off for that destination. The Patton Museum has been rebranded as the "Patton Museum of Leadership".  Upon entering the museum, the visitor sees several screens projecting qualities of leadership.  It should come as no surprise that Character was one of the very first screens. 

The quote displayed on the screen, by George S. Patton Jr; "Moral Courage is the most valuable and usually the most absent characteristic in men" really struck me.    Let me define what Moral Courage is.  I know Wikipedia isn't the greatest of sources, but it says that: "Moral Courage is the courage to take action for moral reasons despite the risk of adverse consequences.  Courage is required to take action when one has doubts or fears about the consequences.  Moral courage, therefore, involves deliberation or careful thought".   

Another word for deliberation or careful thought is Contemplation. Contemplation works on two levels for me personally:  
1. It is the act of thinking profoundly about something.
2. It is the act of having an inner vision into oneself that transcends the intellect, entering a state of mystical awareness of God's being (however you define "God") through various practices like prayer/meditation.  
I'm sure I've oversimplified the definition, but as I said, this is my definition of my personal contemplative practices. 

This being said, the majority of our society and Fraternity seems to be lacking both Moral Courage and the ability to contemplate on both levels.  I am the first to admit that I am among those lacking Moral Courage.  Let me explain.  I have for far too long seen the polarizing influence of the profane world invade the sacred space that I call my Masonic Lodge(s). I have endured my brethren talking about things that we know to cause disharmony in a lodge (politics and religion) building, in a lodge room, and sometimes during the meeting itself.  My personal failing is that I have lacked the Moral Courage to say anything.  I have used the personal mantra of the Duties of a Senior Warden as an excuse for my personal cowardice. "Harmony being the strength and support of all institutions, especially ours."  I say nothing because I don't want to cause issues with my brethren.  I realized in reading the quote from Patton this weekend, that I am wrong. 

But what about the idea of whispering wise counsel?  Wise counsel works when it's another brother.  Wise counsel doesn't work when it's a majority of your lodge members.  What needs to be said, is that to paraphrase the song lyrics by Twisted Sister: "I'm not gonna take it anymore".  What I need to communicate is that the lodge is where we do contemplative work as defined by both of the above, and that should be our business. If we can't leave the outside world behind when we enter the building, then why are we here?   Are we really becoming better men by regurgitating everything that we are hearing in the media or reading on social media to our brethren in a lodge building?

The goal of our lodges should be to practice contemplation.  Masonic Education should have the goal of improving either our critical thinking skills (definition 1) or how we view our relationship with the divine (definition 2).  Something that is done in some jurisdictions is that at the close of a meeting, the brethren come out on the floor and they form a circle around the altar, which is to illustrate the universality of the memberships of all being on the level in the lodge and the eyes of God, but also to focus the Supreme Blessing upon the brethren.  Some jurisdictions have ritual to accompany this.   However, something as simple as this is a contemplative practice that can be done prior to closing in those jurisdictions that don't already have it as a moment of unity and silence.  

Ultimately, we need to take back the sanctity of our lodges.   We need to have the moral courage to fight back against the influences of the profane world.  We need to engage in contemplative work so that we can help each other use the tools of Freemasonry in our own lives.   The tools that should be allowing us to display moral courage in our own lives.  Because if we start showing that we're Freemasons, and living according to the values that we're taught, and displaying moral courage in the profane world, then we can be a force for good.  Let's put in the contemplative work to make that happen. 

~DAL 

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

I Was Second

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

Anticipation consumed me as I sat in the large dining area with my father. A voice from a man I did not know came out of the hallway to my right and bellowed, "It's time, let's go." The room, filled with about 40 others, began to clear. Each got up, including Dad, and stood in line in front of a logbook on a counter, and signed in. Within minutes there were only four of us left in that empty room. 


I sat in eerie silence with two other guys I didn't know at the long table where I had eaten breakfast. The fourth guy in the room was, we learned, the Tyler. He introduced himself. He joked, told us stories, and tried to put us at ease. I was not at ease. It wasn't because I was concerned about what I was going to go through, but because I wanted to get right to it. Time drug. In fact, it seemed to stop altogether. What were they doing in that Lodge room that was taking so long?


Finally, a guy stuck his head around the corner to my left and called out, "Randy!" 


Rats. I wasn't going to be first. He took Randy away. More joking with the Tyler. More waiting. Eternity came and went. Finally, the same guy appeared at the corner to my left. I said a small prayer: "Make him say my name. Please make him say my name…" 


"Steve." 


Prayer answered, I leaped up and followed him into a place that was more a closet than a room. The three guys in there helped me put on a pair of… well… pajamas. They took a gold cross I wore on a chain around my neck, replaced it with a cord of some sort, slipped a sandal on me, and then in their haste apparently forgot to put on the other one. After they blindfolded me, the main guy, followed by the other two, escorted me to a set of double doors, knocked, and announced my presence. After a small wait, I was, for the first time in my life, in an open Masonic Lodge room.


I went through the degree, trying to soak it all in. I learned the lack of a second sandal was not a mistake. I learned why they took the gold chain from me. But it was like drinking from a fire hose. Other things I had experienced… well… I had questions. 


They took me back out of the Lodge room, had me put on my street clothes, took me back in and we wrapped things up. It was amazing that the degree that seemed to take so long while I was waiting had passed in a flash. Parts of the degree swirled through my head as I tried to remember everything I had been through.


Then, suddenly, as they sat me on the sidelines, I realized there would be another degree for the poor guy who was still waiting outside, and I would get to see it. I was elated they had called me second, so I could immediately review what I had seen. 


There was a knock at the door I had recently passed through. The same three guys walked in with the third candidate. I focused my attention. I hung on every word, every motion, every symbolic allusion. I watched transfixed with my Brothers… my BROTHERS… and tried to absorb it like a dry sponge in water. My Masonic education had begun.


~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.

Let There Be Light!!!!

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners


A recent road trip to Salt Lake City, Utah with my girlfriend, Lisa, and youngest son, Spencer, took us from east-central Illinois to several cities, National Parks, and National Monuments on the way.  In order to get to Craters of the Moon National Monument, one would find themselves traveling through Arco, Idaho.  Arco's claim to fame is that it is the first city in the world to be powered by Atomic power.  Arco was powered briefly (for about 1 hour) by the Experimental Breeder Reactor (EBR-1) at the U.S. Atomic Energy Commissions National Reactor Testing Station, about 20 miles from Arco.  

Home of Arco Lodge #48

The author in front of the door to the entrance to the Lodge 

As luck would have it, right across from the City of Arco City Office, there stood a Masonic Temple, which is (assuming my research is correct) is home to Arco Lodge #48 of the Grand Lodge of Idaho, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, which would give it by default the distinction of being the very first Masonic Temple powered by Atomic power.  I thought that this was a very important and historic fact given our ritual's connection to light. 

This being said, I find it fascinating that one of the symbols that we are taught about in the First Degree, the point within the circle or the circumpunct, bears a striking resemblance to a Hydrogen atom.  Illinois ritual states:
"Lodges in ancient times were dedicated to King Solomon, he being our first Most Excellent Grand Master; in modern times to St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist - two eminent Christian patrons of Freemasonry; and since their time there has been represented, in every regular and well furnished lodge, a certain point within a circle, embordered by two perpendicular parallel lines, representing St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist.  On top of the circle rests the book of Holy Scriptures; the point represents an individual brother, the circle the boundary line of his duty. In going round this circle we necessarily touch on the two parallel lines, as well as on the book of Holy Scriptures; and while a Mason keeps himself circumscribed within their precepts, it is impossible that he should materially err."



The idea of keeping one's self within due bounds is personally a lesson that I consider to be a building block of the ideals of Freemasonry.  I look to that image above and it reminds me to contemplate keeping myself grounded.  As I look at it, I see not only myself and the length of my cable-tow but myself and my place in the world as well as my place in the macrocosm.  Should it be any surprise to us as Freemasons, that in following the hermetic principle of: "As above, So below", that our bodies should also be made up of Hydrogen on the microcosmic level?  Hydrogen is one of the elements that is a building block of life. 

Hydrogen is also electrically neutral.  Is the circumpunct not trying to keep us as Freemasons neutral (grounded) by reminding us to keep ourselves within those due bounds?  I refuse to believe that this is by accident.  As such, I believe that the Great Architect on his trestle board designed the Hydrogen atom as such to be not only one of the building blocks of life but also to teach us a fundamental lesson about how to act as Freemasons.  That is pretty powerful (pun intended) when you think about it.

~DAL

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

Be Like Joe

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Randy Sanders


A good friend and Brother Joe Stewart just handed over the reins for the second lodge in two consecutive years to other strong leaders, and I want to spend a few moments to call out the achievement and scale. Worshipful Brother Joe Stewart was installed as Master of Missouri’s Naphtali Lodge #25 in 2019 while installed as Senior Warden of Wentzville Lodge #46. Just after the 2020 Naphtali installation, Worshipful Brother Joe was installed as Master of Wentzville Lodge #46 and served a very successful year in each Lodge. You read that correctly: two consecutive terms leading the craft as Master in each of two different lodges. All the while he was active in DeMolay and Rainbow youth organizations at Wentzville, active in Knights of St. Andrew, Valley of St. Louis AASR, Chapter, Council, AMD, and active within his family.

He deserves some time to cool down, and I hope he takes it. However, I know Brother Joe as one of my best friends, and I know his dedication to the craft. I admire his focus and dedication to making the most of his 24-inch gauge. It will be difficult for him to sit on the sidelines, and I know it’s only a matter of time before the offers come pouring in for him to assist here, take the helm there, and be active in whatever is next on his horizon.

There are some lessons we can learn from Worshipful Brother Joe, and observing his work I can only hope to pass these lessons along. Worshipful Brother Joe understands what it means to do what you can and that much of what happens is beyond your control. Sometimes that is frustrating, but putting your best foot forward still accomplishes goals. Maybe the goal wasn’t exactly what was planned, but success follows accomplishment. That’s my paraphrasing, but WB Joe embodies the spirit of getting things accomplished. He won the very first Craftsman Of The Year award our lodge decided to give annually.

Approach life with humor. WB Joe is quick with humor, makes the most of situations, and on the very few times I’ve ever seen him down, he had already started the process of climbing out of the hole of darkness. He had already refocused on the light and how to get back to making the best of the situation. Humor is an attitude, how it applies to you will be different in every situation. My lesson from my Brother Joe is to find the way to levity, even if only a short distraction, in order to keep everything in perspective.

Live within the chaos. We all have chaos in our lives, and WB Joe’s lesson here is understanding that everything has chaos, find a means of structure, and build on it. Maybe the lodge reconstruction isn’t exactly the most organized with tools and materials scattered, but a quick break, a good look around, and tracking down where that hammer went can go a long way toward creating your own mental structure of how that project is progressing. I witnessed Bro. Joe take charge through the chaos many times.

Celebrate your successes. It seems to me to be a natural, but many people don’t stop to celebrate the successes no matter how small the success, nor how small the celebration might be. Worshipful Brother Joe can take a 5-minute breather and celebrate the progress made, and it inspires others around to get more done.

We can all take a moment, as leaders in this fraternity, to understand the above. Many of us already do much of the same in our own ways, and many of us, me included, can benefit from a bit of work toward our attitude and how we approach projects, the lodge, the brethren, and our lives. Be like Joe.

~RS

Bro. Randy and his wife Elyana live near St. Louis, Missouri, USA. Randy earned a Bachelors's Degree in Chemistry with an emphasis in Biochemistry, and he works in Telecom IT management. He volunteers as a professional and personal mentor, NRA certified Chief Range Safety Officer, and enjoys competitive tactical pistol, rifle, and shotgun. He has 30 plus years teaching Wing Chun Kung Fu, Chi Kung, and healing arts. Randy served as a Logistics Section Chief on two different United States federal Disaster Medical Assistance Teams over a 12-year span. Randy's Masonic bio includes past Lodge Education Officer for two Symbolic Lodges, Founder of the Wentzville Lodge Book Club, member of the Grand Lodge of Missouri Education Committee, Sovereign Master of the E. F. Coonrod AMD Council No. 493, Co-Librarian of the Scottish Rite Valley of St. Louis, Clerk for the Academy of Reflection through the Valley of Guthrie, and a Facilitator for the Masonic Legacy Society. Randy is a founding administrator for Refracted Light, a full contributor to Midnight Freemasons, and an international presenter on esoteric topics. Randy hosts an ongoing weekly Masonic virtual Happy Hour on Friday evenings. Randy is an accomplished home chef, a certified barbecue judge, raises Great Pyrenees dogs, and enjoys travel and philosophy.

Dear Prudence…

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Randy Sanders


I worked recently to clean up an older presentation of mine, and the cardinal virtue of Prudence kept coming to mind. In the presentation, I review how contemplative practice gives us time to deeply consider decisions, to maybe bounce an idea around inside your own head. This in itself is an example of Prudence.  I focused on prudent practicality as an example, more specifically posing the desire of wanting to build a bridge. The prudent considerations are, do I have resources? Do I have time to complete it? 

There's more to Prudence than just the practical example, and I missed that part in my considerations. The presentation doesn't need to deep dive into a sub-lecture in Prudence, but I needed to consider this more carefully. With some keyword searches and some reading, I stumbled across an article on Prudence that seemed to reflect and even summarize my thoughts.

"The word 'prudence' is used in several ways in contemporary English, and its different philosophical senses to some extent reflect that variety. Traditionally, Prudence is the ability to make morally discerning choices in general; but the term is also used to denote a habit of cautiousness in practical affairs; most recently, attempts have also been made to identify Prudence with practical rationality, perhaps even with the pursuit of the agent's own interests, without any specifically moral implications." 1

Morally discerning? Cautiousness in practical affairs? Practical rationality? Pursuit of interests without moral implications? What was this crazy talk?

However, I believe this author might be on to something, and that something might help Masons like me looking into the Cardinal and Theological Virtues. Practicality, morality, and cautiousness don't just pop out of thin air. We must work toward sharpening skills here, or in other words, we have been given working tools to assist us in bettering ourselves. 

Bettering our skillset with regard to Prudence comes down to understanding three things about our own behavior, and this applies to each of the virtues. We have to gather knowledge. This can be an instantaneous snapshot from childhood warnings to look both ways before crossing streets, or it can be walking into a building and scanning for threat assessment – is there anyone here who potentially poses a threat/what is that threat? We apply our own acquired knowledge, hopefully as wisdom, toward this assessment of any given situation. We now make a decision based on our best judgment, and then we act in the best manner we can achieve—a little more on that.

For you folks that studied risk, we gather information, and then we make a decision based on what we know. In other words, we create a risk analysis, we make a decision based on that risk analysis, and we take the risk path that best suits our situation at that time. Is that always the right choice? I'm glad you asked. No, it isn't always the right choice. However, it can be the best choice we have at the time, based on what we know and observe. We can make the choice that we know is morally right, and still, someone possibly gets hurt, but if we work with our working tools, we can sleep at night knowing we put our best effort toward our actions. Our own moral compass sits solidly on Prudence. 

~RS

1. Hughes, G.(1998). Prudence. In The Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Taylor and Francis. Retrieved 28 Aug. 2021, fromhttps://www.rep.routledge.com/articles/thematic/prudence/v-1. doi:10.4324/9780415249126-L078-1

Bro. Randy and his wife Elyana live near St. Louis, Missouri, USA. Randy earned a Bachelors's Degree in Chemistry with an emphasis in Biochemistry, and he works in Telecom IT management. He volunteers as a professional and personal mentor, NRA certified Chief Range Safety Officer, and enjoys competitive tactical pistol, rifle, and shotgun. He has 30 plus years teaching Wing Chun Kung Fu, Chi Kung, and healing arts. Randy served as a Logistics Section Chief on two different United States federal Disaster Medical Assistance Teams over a 12-year span. Randy's Masonic bio includes past Lodge Education Officer for two Symbolic Lodges, Founder of the Wentzville Lodge Book Club, member of the Grand Lodge of Missouri Education Committee, Sovereign Master of the E. F. Coonrod AMD Council No. 493, Co-Librarian of the Scottish Rite Valley of St. Louis, Clerk for the Academy of Reflection through the Valley of Guthrie, and a Facilitator for the Masonic Legacy Society. Randy is a founding administrator for Refracted Light, a full contributor to Midnight Freemasons, and an international presenter on esoteric topics. Randy hosts an ongoing weekly Masonic virtual Happy Hour on Friday evenings. Randy is an accomplished home chef, a certified barbecue judge, raises Great Pyrenees dogs, and enjoys travel and philosophy.

Freemasonry, Notwithstanding, Has Still Survived!

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Chris Hathaway


The lessons in our ritual are the backbone of the fraternity. I should say, applying the lessons learned in our ritual is the backbone of fraternity. True brotherhood flourishes when members internalize and follow through with the lessons and charges given to them. One of my favorite pieces of ritual comes from the Middle Chamber lecture in the 2nd Degree from the Grand Lodge of Illinois AF&AM.

It's ritual that is deeply important to me and my mission in this fraternity; ensuring its longevity so that future generations can enjoy and benefit from the wisdom of the craft. This particular piece is inspiring because it shows that no matter how tumultuous the world may seem, Freemasonry will survive. It is not about the amount of money, members, or buildings we have on our balance sheet. It is about the attentive ear, the instructive tongue, and the faithful breast. Improve those three things in the guys that are active in your lodge, and you will ensure a smooth transfer of the fraternity to the next generation.

The Middle Chamber is also deeply reflective, scientific, and holy. It teaches us to reflect on the world around us, enjoy its vastness, and be mesmerized by the unknown. It teaches us to appreciate the science of geometry and all of the allegory contained within. The ritual shows us equality by explaining that we are all governed by the same laws of nature regardless of our rank, tenure, or ability.

Freemasonry is not in decline. Timeless, ancient lessons do not go out of style. Popularity does not measure success. We all know this, but we still try to measure our own worthiness based on membership numbers. Masons throughout history have carried on the fraternity in far more desperate times.

We have carried it through civil wars, world wars, anti-masonic time periods, outright bans by governments and religions, and times with little money or people. In the Scottish Rite, NMJ, John James Joseph Gourgas, 33° kept the Rite alive single-handedly with just a vision and a copy of the ritual for many years. He knew what he had was important, and he persevered until the right group of guys were up for the challenge.

You have taken the obligation; you have been recorded in the Middle Chamber. It is your choice how you travel this life journey, but I can assure you that you and I will pass to the Grand Lodge above before Freemasonry disappears from the world.

What does the Middle Chamber mean to you?

~CH

WB Christopher J. Hathaway was raised in Catlin Masonic Lodge #285 and is a plural member of Normal Masonic Lodge #673 as well as Bloomington Lodge #43, where he is a Past Master. He belongs to the Valley of Danville, AASR, where he is the Most Wise Master of the George E. Burow Chapter of Rose Croix and Membership Chairman. He is the Oriental Guide in the Divan for the Mohammed Shiners and the 1st Vice President of the Bloomington Shrine Club. Other appendant bodies include the Gao Grotto and the Illinois Lodge of Research. Outside of the lodge, he enjoys spending time with his wife Taylor and cheering on the Fighting Illini and Chicago Cubs.

An Interfaith Homily

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Ken JP Stuczynski


{I was on deck a couple of years ago to fill in as the speaker at a Masonic Interfaith breakfast, and although the speaker didn’t show, they called off the sermon and invocation altogether. This unused passage is compiled from the notes intended for use that day.}

I’d like to share with you a puzzle. This is not the kind you hope all the pieces came with the box and have to protect from the cats, but something much larger — something that encompasses all of human experience throughout the ages. This puzzle is the question of the Holy versus the Profane.

All cultures have some notion of sacredness, or that which is “holy”, meaning, in its most basic form, “set apart.” Ritual of all sorts are used to create sacred space. We use ceremony to sanctify a building, or a room, or a vessel, for a particular meaningful purpose, or use ritual to make special a place for a gathering to set it apart not only from the outside, in space, but from the rest of the day, in time.

The mezuzah on my home’s door frame contains the passage of Exodus 25:8. “[H]ave them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.” I bring this up because even if there were not religion, we would still have the first sacred space of a human being, Home. It becomes a place separate from the rest of the world, and as such it becomes a special act of trust and generosity to invite someone into it.

But there’s another side to the coin. By making our space special, it must be shielded from the outside world, other people. We build walls between us physically and risk building them spiritually as well. This is the puzzle: How do we find holiness in our own lives and hearts without marking everything — and everyone else — profane?

There is another conflict at work here. Wisdom is the ability to make meaningful distinctions, to not become confused with similitude or resemblances. But Love is the choice to NOT make distinctions, to be unconditional, to not compare or contrast others as more or less deserving of life and dignity. Distinctions can detract from our ability to Love, and the most dangerous distinction of all is THEM versus US.

But tribalism is natural. It is how we create the “sacred” in human societies. It gives an identity to a people as opposed to others we may not trust. We find it wise to distinguish between those binding themselves to certain values, rules, and traditions, and those who don’t, at least by our own estimations and assumptions. Those others go by many names: Foreigners, Gentiles, Heathens, Outsiders, Profanes.

The part of the puzzle Freemasons work at is to have the benefits of Sacred Fraternity without its pitfalls, as “Every human being has a claim upon our kind offices.” From one angle, we are always drawing a line between what is good and true and what is not. But is it to pretend we are different or better than others? Do we puff out chests, claiming the higher moral ground, being more civilized than others?

Or is it made in principle? Perhaps the line we draw is only supposed to be the “due bounds” of basic ethics, showing us that which we ought not do. Will we give in to fear and hate and say we must stoop to be evil to fight evil? Will we say our noble ends can justify any means? Or do we draw that line?

I ask a further question, more to the point: Can we protect the sacred by keeping others out? Any Temple we make can be knocked down, and someone eventually always does. But we, as Masons, are taught to construct a Temple that can’t be touched or even made by human hands — something worthy of the Eternity of the Soul, a Sacred space that transcends the need for “Us” and “Them”. We seek a circle without limits.
“He drew a circle that shut me out-
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle and took him In!”

(Edwin Markham)
Poetry is not unknown among Masons — Goethe, Kipling, Bobby Burns, Rob Morris, even George Washington has written a verse or two. But are flowery words forceful arguments? Or are they among other ridiculous sentiments, such as “Love your enemies” or “Pray for those who hate you.” In real life such notions are ridiculous — not because they are ridiculous in principle, but that they are ridiculously difficult to live by.

Consider a recent event — a school shooting where the killer was a child himself. We can’t help but see our own children when we look at the victims’ faces. But we refuse to even look at the face of the disturbed or tormented child who pulled the trigger as anything more than an animal. We cannot accept them as one of us; they may as well be an alien or demon.

On a larger scale, humanity has always used ethnic and ideological pretexts to wage so-called “Holy Wars”. Even atheistic Stalinism played upon this social psychology, and the death toll was mind-boggling. Perceived differences that break down trust and empathy become the very basis for identifying others as something less than human, consciously or subconsciously. After all, that is the only way to make calls to war seem palatable, and the atrocities that stem from them excusable.

Freemasonry was borne in part as a response to this continuing tragedy. The Reformation and Counter-reformation gave us hundreds of years of massacres, both politically executed and by unorganized mobs, based on denominational allegiances. In our Lodge rooms we forbade sectarian discussion and created a sacred space in which we could all sit, and pray together without fear. And we went a step further, borrowing the attitude of Rosicrucianism — a philosophy that prioritized those things of faith on which all men agree, rather than continue to denounce each other over theological details.

The puzzle is how to make the whole world sacred without losing the sacred. Perhaps the answer can be found within another question, another plight of human existence. Why are we missing so many pieces in our world, and in each of our own hearts?

Maybe we are supposed to have something missing, so we have to be dependent upon one another, not just physically, but spiritually and at every other level of our being. Maybe we need the answers to questions only others can ask, coming from places we cannot be, with knowledge we do not have, and understanding we cannot find alone. I believe God has entrusted each of us, however noble or broken a vessel we may be, with a unique spark necessary to light some part of the path for the rest of us.

And maybe it will take all the languages of the world to fill in our crossword. Maybe we must reunite the myriad tribes who split at the fall of the Tower of Babel, and finally hear each other again. And if will finally share those letters and syllables in our hearts, we might just form the Lost Word, recovering the true Law of Love and discovering it anew.

There’s only one time this can ever begin, for ourselves and the World.
The kingdom of Heaven is at hand. It is among us.
We can choose our fate together by choosing it within ourselves.
Never cruel or cowardly, never give up, never give in.
Embrace and enfold others without limit or prejudice, and all will be Sacred.

Grand Architect of the Universe, we ask for the strength to do what is right, rather than what is easy. Subdue our passions against one another, and may we always strive to Love one another as you have Loved us. Amen.

~JP

Bro. Ken JP Stuczynski is a member of West Seneca Lodge No.1111 and recently served as Master of Ken-Ton Lodge No.1186. As webmaster for NYMasons.Org he is on the Communications and Technology Committees for the Grand Lodge of the State of New York. He is also a Royal Arch Mason and 32nd Degree Scottish Rite Mason, serving his second term as Sovereign Prince of Palmoni Council in the Valley of Buffalo, NMJ. He also coordinates a Downtown Square Club monthly lunch in Buffalo, NY. He and his wife served as Patron and Matron of Pond Chapter No.853 Order of the Eastern Star and considered himself a “Masonic Feminist”.

Is Lodge My Church?

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson



Recently our good friend and Brother, Alex Powers, posted something interesting on the Kansas Masonry Facebook Page. For some background, Alex posts a question for contemplation almost daily. Sometimes they're deep philosophical questions, and other times they're more straightforward. If I'm scrolling through Facebook and I see the question, I stop to read it. Sometime's I answer them, and sometimes I stop and think about it--maybe I reply, perhaps I don't. 


I almost always answer straightforward questions about my Lodge experience or procedures and customs that we might use in Lodge. The reason being, it's hoped others might also read the replies and see where their own experiences and traditions are similar or different from the others that they are reading about. This is a great way to see the universality of the Craft and create more informed and confident Master Masons. 


The philosophical questions are a bit different. In fact, earlier this week, Alex posted a question that began with a little admonition:

"Let's start off with this week's theme being one typically avoided in Masonic circles: Religion. Obviously, we will approach this in due bounds and remind all to do the same. And, of course, our team of moderators will keep an eye on as well. 

Today's topic: 

In your personal experience, do you utilize Freemasonry as a supplementary factor (to add to or enhance) to your religious practice? Or do you view and treat Freemasonry entirely separate?"

In case you skipped the quote, I bolded it. This is what I am going to address here in this short article. And let me go one step further. I want to say that this blog's description is: 

"A group of Master Masons talk about topics of Masonic interest--each from their own unique perspective. You'll find a wide range of subjects including history, trivia, travel, book reviews, great quotes, and hopefully a little humor as well on topics of interest for Freemasons and those interested in the subject of Freemasonry."

My own perspective is precisely what I want to lay out. I began to answer Alex's prompt, and while doing so, I thought I would keep it simple, but that I would also lay this out for the blog because this is a question that is always out there, looming like some kind of storm cloud. I wish it was easier to talk about things like this without having tons of disclaimers, but alas--it's a hotly debated topic; in fact, what's more hotly debated about, is that the question itself shouldn't even be asked! But it was-- and here is my answer. 


I grew up Roman Catholic. I attended Church in Naples, Italy, with my mom and dad weekly. My dad was in the service (Navy) and had been stationed there. It was a wonderful experience. Later, when we came home to the United States, we settled in Illinois after my dad had passed away. I was young, and I attended a Lutheran grammar school for a year. My mom wasn't a fan and pulled me out. I went to public school after that. My religious beliefs until my early twenties could best be represented by the poster that hung in Fox Mulder's basement office in The X-Files. And in reality, that poster is laminated and hangs on my own office wall right now.



"I Want To Believe" was my motto with religion and just about anything else. And let's be honest, there would be a certain comfort or contentment in knowing or believing for those out there who don't believe. To be sure, some atheists will say that they are already content and comfortable--I believe you. This speaks for the rest of us. I wasn't an atheist--I was agnostic in those formative years. I found it audacious in a sense to declare it one way or the other. Who am I to say whether something like God exists or doesn't?


After reading much literature on philosophy with varied authors and really focussing on my collegiate studies, which were themselves centered on philosophy in religion, I had arrived. I did not have faith that there was more. I KNEW there was more. I did believe--because the evidence was surrounding me. The readings and authors that did the most to sway my mind were Giordano Bruno, Cayetano Ripoll, Thomas Paine, Spinoza, and even Albert Einstein. They convinced me that intelligent design was written as we say in this Fraternity, "...in the book of Nature."


I cannot be classified wholly as a Deist, although it sometimes fits. To answer the question placed above, where does someone like myself stand? In an age where fewer people are going to church each year, finding an organized religion as fulfilling or are willing to have faith--we ask why? And I think the answer is because they want to KNOW. And while I had the confidence to say that I knew absolutely that there was something else--that there was intelligent design, I also understand that having this mindset could be considered a gift. To others, it may be too rigid. For me, it's right. Whatever your path is, whatever lens you see the world through, or your particular religion,  as long as it hurts no one--follow it. 


So, where do I stand on Alex's question? I suppose I see Freemasonry as the living practice of Deism, maybe even Stoicism. While we have the Abrahamic faiths as a foundation for the allegory, or rather, it's the mode of transmission we've chosen to use--the tenets of our institution are universal in application. Not one part of it is specifically applicable to only one religion. Hence Freemasonry's secular stance--at least in words. Often times many members belong to Lodges that do have a specific religious "flavor." I don't mean to be derogatory. I just don't have a better way to describe it. Other Lodges stay as objective and "vanilla" as possible--multiple VoSLs on the altar, specially written prayers that remove themes of one kind or another, and more.


It really does span the gamut. At this time, Regular Freemasonry requires a belief in a Supreme Being or God. It does so for some precise reasons, which I'm not going to get into here. Deism is a philosophy that has changed over the years very dramatically. So much so that in some jurisdictions, Deists aren't allowed to join Freemasonry. Would this have barred members like Benjamin Franklin? Perhaps. But that is not the question asked above. Deism has no church or divinely inspired text or VoSL. It would be nice to have something, I suppose, but what would it be? A VoSL for a Deist is probably considered--"The Book of Nature." This isn't an actual book, of course, it's analogous to saying--"Look around you. This is my book. This is my divinely inspired text." 


Deism also has no church. There again, the Deist might say, "The world is my church." I'm wondering, though-- if Deism DID have a church, perhaps a Craft Lodge is it. Again, I'm not so sure I'm a Deist, and I don't go to religious services often. My opinion here might mean nothing to you based on that alone. I've said it in a room full of people to whom I was lecturing, "Freemasonry is my religion." Yikes! I just said that. 


You might say to yourself, "Freemasonry isn't a religion. It has no God." You're right. There is no God in Freemasonry--its members believe that whatever their individual God is, we can call it, "The Great Architect of the Universe" or hey, for me, "God"-- works. So I know there's something out there, something bigger, grander, incomprehensible. While I might not have a specific dogma, at times, I guess Deism is a good banner that fits me. The Craft offers me a place to meet others who can agree on a shared belief in an intelligent creator and interact with others who share the same universal beliefs regardless of their personal backgrounds. Maybe Lodge, for me, it's its own religion--even though folks might vehemently disagree. 


Lodge definitely adds to my dogma--it might just be my church. 


To quote an interview with Ernest Borgnine for "The Scotsman" in 2009:

"His religion now, he says, is Freemasonry. "I am very happy to say that I'm a 33rd degree Grand Cross Master Mason in the Scottish Rite. We believe in one thing, God. We believe in another thing: to help your fellow man. Be as kind as you can be to everybody."

~RHJ

More on Ernest Borgnine

The Scotsman Interview

Pew Research on Decline of Church

Fewer Adults Belong to a Religious Congregation

RWB Johnson is a Co-Managing Editor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He is a Freemason out of the 2nd N.E. District of Illinois. He currently serves as the Secretary of Spes Novum Lodge No. 1183. He is a Past Master of Waukegan Lodge 78 and a Past District Deputy Grand Master for the 1st N.E. District of Illinois. He is the current V:. Sovereign Grand Inspector for AMD in IL. 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", “The Master’s Word: A Short Treatise on the Word, the Light, and the Self – Annotated Edition” and author of "How to Charter a Lodge: A No-Nonsense, Unsanctioned Guide. More books are on the way.