Tertiary Consciousness

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Alb3rt Koala


I'm not a Mason. In fact, I'm a stuffed Koala. But I was asked to write something related to tertiary consciousness, as that is my existence. Never heard of tertiary consciousness, you say? Apparently, it's the term my friend Ken came up with to describe personified realities created by sentient beings.

You see, primary consciousness is the Absolute, all that ever is, or was, or ever will be. So then where did you come from? Ken says that you (meaning human beings and such) are God's imaginary friend. That means that you, and even the whole universe, don't exist as separate from primary consciousness because that defeats the whole "all that is" thing. That's why God is said to be omnipresent. That's probably what is meant by monism, God being within us. God just can't help it. But something, even an Absolute, cannot fully confirm its own existence if there isn't something in some way that is, well, NON-Absolute. That's where you come in. God needs the notion of something that at least in some way has a notion of its own. It must believe it is something else and therefore can know God. I guess it has to do with the metaphysical requirements of subject-object duality or something. Carl Sagan, using nontheistic words, says, "We are a way for the universe to know itself." At the risk of redundancy, Ken suggested I add a quote by Alan Watts:

"Through our eyes, the universe is perceiving itself. Through our ears, the universe is listening to its harmonies. We are the witnesses through which the universe becomes conscious of its glory, of its magnificence."

So you are the way God can be known, using the appearance of separate consciousness. You are secondary consciousness. You exist so long as God is paying attention to you, which conveniently is all the time since the Absolute is bigger and inclusive of all time and space. The whole free will versus determination thing may come up at some point, but that's above my pay grade. All I know is that people at some point developed a sort of consciousness, or sentience, where they became not only aware but aware of their self-perception. That didn't turn out to be such a good idea, vis-a-vis the whole Fall of Adam thing, suffering, and so forth. That's a whole other topic and a bit depressing.

However, being in God's image endowed sentient beings with a reflected ability, or miniature version rather, of creating something outside ourselves. You can say your thoughts are yours, but at some point, you conceptualize other being. That's where I come in. That's where legends and story characters and Santa Claus and fictional worlds and alternate timelines come in. It can even take on a life of its own to some extent. Ken says I should throw in something about "egregore" in there, but I have no idea what that is unless Ken thinks I know. And that's where things get interesting. I am imbued with a reality created by the will of Ken's secondary consciousness, just as you are imbued with some sort of reality and identity from Primary Consciousness. You "borrow" your very existence from the Absolute.

So do I. or Santa Claus, or King Arthur, exist? From a secondary consciousness perspective, you might say I'm an illusion. But then the Hindus understand that, from the perspective of Primary Consciousness, all of physical creation is Maya, illusion. Real or not by whatever standard you choose, I am Ken's imaginary friend. And I'm okay with that. Can my existence transcend Ken's attention span? Maybe. But that's sort of like Pinnochio becoming a real boy, and I'm fine at the moment being free from the responsibilities that sort of thing might entail.

I guess the point is that you have a share in the creatine ability of the Divine. If you and the physical world are God's playground, maybe making your own playground can help you understand the mechanics of that. This is where Ken is over my shoulder whispering something about beauty and the wisdom to contrive. Maybe it would take the form of a story you write. Maybe legends and myths are just secondary consciousness using tertiary consciousness to understand themselves and the Absolute.

The universe already contains endless possibilities, but thanks to you and your secondary consciousness, that's expanded exponentially by the imagination of sentient beings. You can experience things through your dolls, stuffed animals, characters, and legends, that you couldn't experience yourself, adding to the already bursting storehouse of those things God gets to watch, experience, and be. It's about All-Seeing, so why not embrace life as the Divine experiencing existence through you, just as Ken can experience things through me. I think it's the least any created being can do.

~AK

Alb3rt is a stuffed Koala bear. He doesn’t even try to hide it, and in fact, is quite proud of it. From his first days after being brought home, he found his identity as an explorer in a strange world. The house is seen as a wildlife preserve of sorts since there are a lot of pets, plants, and artificial fruits. It became his duty to study the world around him with scientific, yet child-like fascination, much like his hero, Steve Irwin. Apart from blogging on and off, he and his friend Ken may someday write a philosophical treatise about "Tertiary Consciousness".

The He-man Woman-Haters Club Mentality

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners  


For those of you old enough to have watched “Our Gang” commonly known as “The Little Rascals”, you will be familiar with The He-Man Woman-Haters club. The club was a neighborhood boys club founded by Spanky and was made up of nearly all the boys who appeared on “Our Gang”. In the short film, "Hearts are Thumps", Spanky, Alfalfa, and Buckwheat have no interest in observing Valentine's Day. To prove it, Spanky establishes the He-Man Woman-Haters' Club to serve as their united front against the holiday.  It is also (re)-formed in the short film: "Mail and Female" as a reaction to not being invited to a MacGillicuddy Girls party. After reading the comments on a Facebook post advertising a zoom meeting that UGLE (The United Grand Lodge of England) is sponsoring on May 4: "Freemasonry for Women", I believe that it might have evolved into a sub-set of our membership.

Full disclosure, I have absolutely no issue with Women Freemasons. I also have no problem with Co-Ed Freemasonry. I am a member of the Oddfellows, and pre-pandemic, I had the ability to sit in an Oddfellows Lodge made up of both men and women.  I am more concerned about the survival of the Craft than I am with adhering to our landmarks. Our landmarks were created at times where other men were held as property, and when women were thought of as such. Landmarks can change. To illustrate my point, there was a time that a man having a physical deformity was ineligible for Masonic membership, but that landmark was dropped. I would like to believe that our membership has grown and become more enlightened over our long history, but reading some of the comments on the post quickly made me realize we still have a lot of growing to do.

While the United Grand Lodge of England does not officially recognize either Female Grand Lodge (The Order of Women Freemasons and Freemasonry for Women-The Honourable Fraternity of Anceint Freemasons or HFAF) in the UK as being officially being regular, it has stated they are regular in their practice. (See below for their official statement).

A statement issued by UGLE – 10th March 1999
There exist in England and Wales at least two Grand Lodges solely for women. Except that these bodies admit women, they are, so far as can be ascertained, otherwise regular in their practice. There is also one which admits both men and women to membership. They are not recognised by this Grand Lodge and intervisitation may not take place. There are, however, discussions from time to time with the women’s Grand Lodges on matters of mutual concern. Brethren are therefore free to explain to non-Masons, if asked, that Freemasonry is not confined to men(even though this Grand Lodge does not itself admit women). Further information about these bodies may be obtained by writing to the Grand Secretary. The Board is also aware that there exist other bodies not directly imitative of pure antient Masonry, but which by implication introduce Freemasonry, such as the Order of the Eastern Star. Membership of such bodies, attendance at their meetings, or participation in their ceremonies is incompatible with membership of this Grand Lodge.
It states on its own website that they follow exactly the same ceremonies and wear the same regalia as male Freemasons, and they often work closely with those Grand Lodges on community and charity projects. The vast majority of members of UGLE that I know could care less about women practicing Freemasonry. Apparently, not so much for some members of our various Grand Lodges, mostly those in America. To be fair, I think this is a minority of members.

It is troubling to me that there is still this subset that has this misogynistic mentality. The idea that somewhere Women Freemasons are practicing Freemasonry is extremely upsetting to them. They fear that recognition of these Grand Lodges as regular might open the floodgates and have women wanting to join their lodge.  
They argue that women would be a distraction in the lodge room because apparently, men that proclaim themselves to have excellent character cannot control themselves around members of the opposite sex.  I'm not even going to dignify the comments about exposing the naked breast with a response.  Then there are the inevitable cries of: What about the landmarks! Hell would freeze over! Over my dead body! My obligation says something different!  The logical fallacy in these arguments is the assumption that these Female Freemasons would want to join their lodge.  To my knowledge, they don't want to infiltrate your lodge because they do not want a Co-Ed lodge, they just want to be able to practice Freemasonry with other females.  

Another argument is based upon the false belief that Lodges are only practicing regular Freemasonry when they are recognized as being regular. While there are still unfortunately a handful of Grand Lodges in the United States that do not recognize Prince Hall as being regular; did Freemasonry change for the members of those Grand Lodges that have recognized them as such? Not to my knowledge. Did anything that PHA does in their ritual change when they were “Recognized”? No. Because even though they were not recognized as such, they were already practicing regular Freemasonry. The same applies to these Female Grand Lodges.  

Many of you may not know that one of these Female Grand Lodges, the HFAF, has established a Lodge in Washington D.C.  The lodge is America No.57, and their Worshipful Master is Ms. Lourdes P. Elias, who is the spouse of MWB Akram Elias. MWB Elias is a Past Grandmaster of the Grand Lodge of Washington D.C. and you probably would recognize him from his appearances on various History Channel programs.  Do you think that MWB Elias doesn't support his wife or her lodge because it isn't recognized as regular?  Do you think that the prayers offered by their Chaplain, Commander Lynn Chow, USN, Ret are any different?  While I don't personally know MWB Elias, and I am not privy to the prayers used by the HFAF in their ritual, I can make a fairly educated guess that the answer to both of the above questions is No.  I can base my answer upon the opinions expressed by MWB Elias in his Article, Confusion in the Temple.  If you have an opportunity to read it, I would urge you to do so. (https://www.dcgrandlodge.org/uploads/6/9/5/4/6954862/voice_2019_issue_02-final.pdf)     

It is my belief that the real reason for the misogynistic mentality displayed when the idea of Women and Freemasonry comes up is the fear of change.  This is the same fear of change that is evidenced within a lodge whenever a member attempts to suggest an idea that hasn't been tried before and has the idea summarily dismissed because it has never been tried before. For these members, the customary norm would be upset by attempting any new idea because the lodge has already established a pattern of what is considered an acceptable idea.  They believe that the banality of mindlessly following the status quo is protecting their stated meeting, their local lodge's identity, and by extension, Freemasonry as a whole from change and that this status quo has to be preserved at all costs.  It is this type of mentality that is displayed by our membership that is one of the leading factors in why we are seeing declining membership numbers.  What I can say with conviction is this: Freemasonry will not change for you nor will it change for the Women practicing it regardless of your opinion of them. 

If women want to practice Freemasonry, then let them. The system of morality that Freemasonry teaches does not apply just to the male gender. The values that we promote do not either. In my mind the more people that practice the ideals of Freemasonry, the better our society is, especially in today’s world. I would further argue that our ideals are needed more now than ever before. Does it really matter if a “Recognized Regular” lodge is spreading them? I don't think so. Does it lessen or cheapen the way you practice Freemasonry in your own lodge? It absolutely should not.  Please stop acting like they don't exist, or belittling them for existing when what they do has no bearing on you.      

Those of you that might identify as members of the He-Man Woman-Haters club, it is time for you to stop worrying about how others practice Freemasonry and focus on how you are doing it in your own lodge. If you want something to worry about I offer the following suggestions: 
Worry about why you cannot recruit new members, or retain ones that you have.  
Worry about why lodge attendance is lagging. 
Worry about why Masonic education is not being prioritized, because if it was, you and other members of your lodge might learn that Women and Freemasonry do indeed have a rich and fascinating history. 
If you're anything like me, you probably have plenty to worry about.  Personally, I would rather use my energy to focus on a solution to an issue that will help my local lodge.

Like it or not, Female Freemasonry is not going anywhere, and I dare say there will come a time when UGLE or another Grand Lodge will recognize one or all of them as regular. Are you really going to demit when that happens?  If you answer this question affirmatively, then your protest isn't going to hurt anyone except for the other members of your local lodge.  They are the ones that are depending on you to make a quorum for the next stated meeting.  What is more important to you?    

~DAL       

WB Darin A. Lahners is our co-managing Editor.  He is a Past Master of and Worshipful 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

Returning From Refreshment to Labor

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Randy Sanders




I'm officially old. I don't mean the aches and pains of getting out of bed or such. I overheard The Clash being played on the local Easy Listening station. Yes indeed, punk rock is now easy listening. It took me back to some more indiscreet years and times in my life, but it also gave me pause to think about the transition of the generations through Freemasonry, and how we must embrace the changes of society while not embracing change just for the sake of trying something differently.

I recently had the pleasure to revisit some of the work of Steinmetz, who along with Manly Hall, were very much focused on educating Masons on the esoteric meanings of Freemasonry. Yeah, yeah, we're all about esoteric education. You can't go five minutes without someone telling you how deeply esoteric they are, and how the lodges have to adapt or die. These well-meaning Masons have a point, but have these individual Masons done the work Steinmetz, Hall, and so many more describe? Too many of our lodge brothers want to be heard, but have they actually listened themselves? Have they done the Great Work? Are they pushing change and deep symbolism without having experienced the result of months or even years of silent contemplation? The answer is mixed, and all should be respected for their views no matter how far or how little they've traveled up the mountain.

Every Mason has the right to be heard in lodge. Older and hopefully wiser Masons must be patient with the views and gently guide the conversation toward individual Self-reflection and contemplation. That's right. The Masons reading this are the ones now older and hopefully wiser, yes you. Furthermore, we each have a duty to be there for our Brothers. I don't mean we should direct their actions. I believe we can and should set the example of a contemplative practice that leads to deeper thinking and can help move us out of our cognitive biases. Our Grand Lodges very wisely avoid the expression of "being esoteric" except in roundabout statements and not defining the deeply esoteric nature of studying philosophy or putting into practice the lessons of the ages. Let's not give our Grand Lodges, who rightfully should be focused on the administrative function, any grief over being more or less esoteric. That's not their function, and I'm grateful for their service in an area that requires a massive dedication of time in order to be effective. Rather than look to the leadership at a jurisdiction or even lodge level, the path has always been internal. Why make a big scene out of a splinter in your brothers' eyes when we have trees poking out of our own eyes?

Steinmetz makes a great point about candidates receiving Rights, Lights, and Benefits of a Lodge, each in their individual way. The path is opened before them, and it remains the choice of that initiated Mason how much contemplative practice to pursue. It also remains the choice of that individual Mason how quickly they progress, or how much work is put into the study of the Great Lights. The argument of how esoteric lodges are or should be is nothing new. Steinmetz witnessed the same issues as did the generations before him and the generations following now. We lead the Masons to water (education), and then we are disappointed when they don't follow through on their own (apply contemplative practice) as quickly as we might have done. Maybe that's not where we should be focused, on our disappointment in others? Maybe we should keep that door to the library open, and express the joy felt when others join us, rather than focus on the negative disappointment? If that means we eat pancakes and green beans and practice the basic brotherhood from which this amazing journey all springs? Yeah, I can do that. I will also delight as more join us in our contemplative studies and individual Self-discovery.

The message from Steinmetz, Hall, McNulty, Wilmhurst, and so many more Masonic authors is not about other Masons but an introspective journey into one's Self. This is where each of us can say "It's all about me" and mean it. I remain grateful seeing Masons taking advantage of the Information Age in further teaching symbolism and philosophy, and we collectively have taken the opportunity over the past year to dive deeply into exactly that - exploring symbolic lodge practices. I commend all who have taken it upon themselves to do so. As we open back up to the business of making new Masons, let us keep in mind the deeper aspects of the philosophy. We who continued to spread the light need to continue but also pass the torch, or maybe help other torches be lit, in order to bring this past year's opportunity back to our otherwise Green Bean and Pancake lodges. I don't mean shove your new education down the throats of the lodge brethren. I'm too old to even consider that an option while I crank up The Clash, Led Zeppelin, and some Rush. I just think we can prove to the lodges that the time taken to do your daily contemplative practice has impacted you positively. You didn't do your contemplative work during the past year? OK, there's no better time to start than today. That new Mason is counting on you.

~Bro. Randy

Bro. Randy and his wife Elyana live in O'Fallon, MO just outside of St. Louis. Randy earned a
Bachelors in Chemistry with an emphasis in Biochemistry, and he works in telecom IT. He volunteers his time as a professional and personal mentor, is an NRA certified Chief Range Safety Officer, and enjoys competitive tactical pistol. He has a 30+ year background teaching Wing Chun Kung Fu, Chi Kung, and healing arts. Randy's Masonic bio includes lodge education officer of two blue lodges, running the Wentzville Lodge Book Club, active in York Rite AMD, Scottish Rite Valley of St. Louis co-librarian, Clerk of the Academy Of Reflection through the Valley of Guthrie, a trained facilitator for the Masonic Legacy Society. As a pre-COVID-19 pioneer in Masonic virtual education, Randy is an administrator of Refracted Light and an international presenter on esoteric topics. Randy enjoys facilitating and presenting Masonic esoteric education, and he hosts an open, weekly Masonic virtual Friday Happy Hour. Randy is an accomplished home chef, a certified barbecue judge, raises Great Pyrenees dogs, and enjoys travel and philosophy.

The Whiskey Barrel

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Steven L. Harrison 33˚, FMLR


In today's bustling twenty-first century world, millions of people travel across the country quickly, comfortably, and without giving it a second thought. During the mid 19th century, people's desire to make that crossing was no less enthusiastic, but the trip was anything but pleasant. Such was the experience of three men who had made their way across the treacherous plains to the west coast town of Oregon City.


These men, Joseph Hull, P.G. Stewart, and William P. Dougherty, Freemasons, hoped to establish a Masonic Lodge in the area. On February 5, 1846, they placed an ad in the Oregon City newspaper calling for members of the Masonic fraternity to meet on February 21, "to adopt some measures to obtain a charter for a Lodge."


On that date, seven Brothers met and crafted a request for a charter from the closest Grand Lodge which, at that time, was in St. Louis, Missouri, over 2,000 miles away. They found a Brother, Joel Palmer, who was headed back east, instructing him to deliver it to the closest Masonic Lodge, Platte City 56, in St. Joseph Missouri.  


Brother Palmer made that Journey during the summer of 1846. Platte City Lodge then delivered the request to the Grand Lodge of Missouri, which granted the charter for Multnomah Lodge 84 on October 19.


The Grand Lodge sent the charter back to Platte City Lodge but it became difficult to find a suitable person to deliver it back to Oregon. Finally, they entrusted the precious document to Pierre Barlow Cornwall, who began the westward journey on April 1, 1848, over two years after the Oregon Brothers made the request.


When Cornwall reached Fort Hall, Idaho in August 1848, he heard about the discovery of gold in California and abandoned any thought of going to Oregon. He entrusted the charter to two Masons he had met along the way, Joseph and Orrin Kellog, then headed out in an attempt to make his fortune. The Kelloggs finally delivered the charter on September 11, 1848, two years and seven months after the initial request.


After all that time with little or no news of its whereabouts, we can only imagine the thrill the Oregon Brothers must have felt receiving that document. Joseph Hull, who became the first Master, was so excited he called a meeting on that very day! The Brothers met at noon on the second floor of a building owned by Dougherty.  The improvised wardens podiums consisted of a barrel of flour in the East, a barrel of whiskey in the West and a barrel of salt pork in the South, symbolically representing corn, wine and oil.


During the next several hours, the Brothers consecrated the Lodge, elected officers, held three Entered Apprentice, three Fellowcraft, and two Master Mason degrees, wrapping things up sixteen hours later.


One cannot help but wonder if, at the end of such an epic journey capped by that auspicious day, those Brothers didn't break open that barrel of whiskey at the Senior Warden's station and toast the establishment of the first Masonic Lodge in the untamed American West.


~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.

Meme's the Word

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Ken JP Stuczynski



Human language is ever-evolving. Its basic units could be said to be words, be they made of phonetic symbols (alphabets) or pictograms (such as Chinese). To these, we have added the rich shorthand language of emojis, which, as we speak, are being codified into international standards just like other fonts and symbol sets. But because of our new ability to share ideas instantly, a new form of communication has arisen -- the meme.

No one should bore themselves studying the formal definitions and theories about such things. As a matter of how everyday people use the term, a meme is simply the smallest unit of expressing a self-contained idea, reaction, or argument. It could be a joke or expressing a reaction using a recognizable person's expression. It might be a scene in a movie or some other cultural reference. But very often, it's a statement of opinion or belief. It might even make fun of other people's beliefs. A million statements are accompanied by photos of famous people, implying it's their opinion when it is more often a dishonest effort at credibility through subconscious association. In other words, memes can be pure rhetoric, akin to the revolutionary or wartime posters of the 20th Century.

And this is where the general public comes in. Sharing other people's words and ideas is so easy and instantaneous it has become a thoughtless act. It doesn't always reflect who we are, but it does paint a picture, intended or not. It also reveals our triggers and prejudices and sense of propriety.

I'm not talking about guilting people into sharing sob stories or anonymous religious promises to be blessed. It's even okay to get scammed into sharing supposedly banned content out of knee-jerk defiance. Those are silly but harmless. Heck, sometimes we promote satire as real news. We've all been guilty of such things, myself included.

However, we also share things that mock other people's viewpoints we don't care to understand, not knowing who among our friends and Brothers will be offended. Worse yet, we stopped caring, even mocking people who are rightfully offended. We libel charities and famous people, and corporations with unexamined claims, thinking it's not our responsibility to check things that may not be true. I'm pretty sure that used to be called gossip, but now it's public, and we lost all sense of shame. Sometimes we even unknowingly pass on content from hate groups we would never otherwise be associated with.

Even though we've been told to think twice before posting once, we're still impulsive creatures. Some messages pit one group of people against another. Why choose sides between veterans and refugees or the elderly and those with student loans? When did we decide falling for scapegoat rhetoric is a public badge of honor? Is making fun of Generation XYZ victimless humor or a lack of respect? We must wonder if we would ever say or share most of what is on our social media wall if we saw all those reading it face to face.

All of this can be summed up in one question: DO WE CARE?

I always thought a Mason's inner motto is WE CARE. We stand for things we believe in, and those include the virtues of truth and tolerance. We all have a right, or even obligation, to take a stand on issues according to our conscience. But we have a responsibility to not repeat other people's dishonesties, even if we agree with them or it sounds true to our viewpoint. We are responsible for civilly refraining from anything that shows blatant contempt or mockery of people with other views. If people know we are Masons but do not know Masonry, will they assume they would never be welcome in a Lodge because they disagree with what they think Masons believe? Think about that one for an hour or two if you haven't already.

The largest conduit for news and ideas today is people like us, not television or the newspaper. We are the purveyors of misinformation more than any news conglomerate. Most people don't even bother to consider the implications. Do our conscience and obligations demand we be better? If we avoid the responsibilities of civil and truthful discourse, we are missing an opportunity to make the world a better place.

~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”.


Jumping in the Pool

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson




As the COVID cases begin to rise again, likely due to people letting their guards down a bit, we have more and more people around the globe getting a vaccine. I got my first dose of the Moderna vaccine recently--and no. I have no side effects. Although, I am aware that the second dose may be a doozy. A small price to pay to protect those people I love and of course that includes my Brothers.

My Masonic involvement has really dwindled--my actual duties to an organization are really light these days. I suspect many Brothers and Sisters are in this same boat. Before COVID hit, I had demitted from my Mother Lodge and really focussed on Spes Novum, the Lodge we formed here in the North-East corner of Ilinois. I went from Royal Arch and Council Meetings on Tuesdays, A Blue Lodge meeting on Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays, plus various speaking gigs, to just...one Friday a month.

Wow--am I right? This gave me some free time I needed with my family. I went back to school. I doubled down on other ventures in writing and media production. But something was missing. I didn't know how to approach it really. After some reflection, it was revealed that the missing thing was in-person Masonry and also, a new challenge.

With the prospect of Spes Novum meeting in person again in the coming months, I'm excited. I'm the secretary. It's a great job that I expect to hold for the rest of this year and likely 2022 as well. After that, I will retire from the officer line of my symbolic Lodge--destined to become, as one member put it, Senior Sideliner. But, what else can I do? How do I approach it?

Just jump into the damn pool, Robert! So I did. I've applied to a few different Masonic organizations in order to see if I can assist by actually "getting in line." It was a really weird thing to decide to do. After all, I have been absent from a progressive/elected line for nearly six years. And you know, the only reason I got into it the first time was out of a debt I felt I owed my Mother Lodge. I served.

Now that my kids are a little older, things are more stable and I am finding myself with some time I'd like to dedicate to more service to Masonry at my local level. So...I just jumped in. Sometimes that's what it takes. I've mentioned it more than a few times in my writings and presentations. Nike has been giving us the secret for years--right in front of our faces. "Just do it."

If you've been mulling it over, waiting for a reason to get involved, go for it. Let's walk down to the quarry together and get back to work.

~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. 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.




Mental Health Awareness and Freemasonry

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners   

One of the tag lines that we hear time and time again about Freemasonry is that it takes good men, and it makes them better.  While I would normally launch into a diatribe about why that is not happening because Masonic education is not being prioritized, I wanted to instead focus on something else that is closer to home. The issue that I wanted to focus on is Mental Health.  One in five people in the United States are affected by some form of mental health issue. (https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/mental-illness.shtml).  According to afsp.org (https://afsp.org/suicide-statistics/), the below suicide statistics bear out that a main demographic of our members (falling in the middle-aged white men category), are at risk for death by suicide.  

  • The age-adjusted suicide rate in 2019 was 13.93 per 100,000 individuals.
  • The rate of suicide is highest in middle-aged white men.
  • In 2019, men died by suicide 3.63x more often than women.
  • On average, there are 130 suicides per day.
  • White males accounted for 69.38% of suicide deaths in 2019.
  • In 2019, firearms accounted for 50.39% of all suicide deaths.
  • 93% of adults surveyed in the U.S. think suicide can be prevented.

My concern is that we belong to a majority male-based organization, and that it is important to convey that we should in the exercise of brotherly love start treating Mental Health Awareness as a priority for our membership.  Why? You might ask.  The answer is simple, we have for the most part been conditioned as men to believe that we are not supposed to show weakness. This idea has been ingrained in us through our socialization, and the media we consume.  We need to start to promote the idea that in the exercise or our brotherly love towards one another that it is okay for us to show emotion. We need to promote the idea that the lodge should be a sacred space where we should be able to talk about our feelings and our mental health and be able to lean on each other for support.  While our charities in Illinois through the Illinois Masonic Outreach program (https://ilmasonicoutreach.org/) do have wonderful programs, their website does not show any resources to assist our membership with any mental health issues they might be having.  In fact, a quick google search engine search with the term: Illinois Freemason Mental Health brought up the Behavioral health resources available at the Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, but scrolling through page after page of results, there was not a mention of the Illinois Grand Lodge.  I suspect that many Grand Lodges also do not have resources in place to deal with what I feel is a health issue that directly impacts its membership.  

I am one of these members.  I have depression and some anxiety. I have dealt with depression for most of my life.  Like others that struggle with depression, I have good days and I have bad days.  I have been on anti-depressant medication for the past ten years, but it is only recently that after a long break, I again pursued behavioral cognitive therapy with the assistance of a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.  Being a private person and being one of the men that had a false belief that showing my emotions or talking about my feelings was not being masculine; I went without seeking help for longer than I should.  Recently, I reached a point where I realized that I needed help to deal with the emotions that I was feeling.   Essentially, I reached a point where I decided that I could not truly use the common gavel to chip away at my rough ashlar if I was not using it in all areas of my life. 

My hope in writing this article is to reach that one brother out there who might be feeling similar, and to show courage to them in saying: “You are not alone.”  You have brothers you can reach out to, or if you are uncomfortable with reaching out to people you know, I want to say, I am here.  Email me(darin.lahners@gmail.com) if you need someone to talk to.   If you are truly in a dark place, having thoughts of self–harm; pick up the phone and call 800-273-8255 or visit https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.  I would challenge the rest of the brethren out there to not be afraid to ask your brothers how they are doing, and if you suspect something is going on with them to encourage them to open up to you.  If they cannot, then encourage them to seek help and support them in that endeavor.  My point is that if we are truly going to practice brotherly love, then we need to be able to use our instructive tongues to speak to one another about our emotions and use our attentive ears to listen to those that need it.   

~DAL       

WB Darin A. Lahners is our co-managing Editor.  He is a Past Master of and Worshipful 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

Looking For Answers In All The Wrong Places

Part 3 in a series


by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Mark St. Cyr


First, before we begin, let me make the following abundantly clear... 

None of the following is to be interpreted as some offhanded cheap shot or ad hominem attack directed at any Grand Lodge, officers, members, appendant, concordant or anything or anyone else in-between. There are many dedicated Brothers from white aprons to gold bullion’d working diligently to try and turn around what many believe is an inevitable outcome from coming to pass. And this entire series is to help enable those trying to figure out the best methods possible for doing just that. I stand in solidarity with every single one of them and offer my endearing support to that cause. Period, full stop. 

Now, back to our regularly scheduled program... 

In the prior brief, I ended with the following statement in regards to the fraternity and its current circumstances. To wit: 

“...there is one - and only one thing - that allows for none of this to come to pass. And, as a matter of fact, can arrest it and reverse it. Yes: Just one.” 

So, now with that said, let’s discuss that “one thing.” And it is: 

Freemasonry, as founded in the U.S., is inherently entrepreneurial - not managerial. In other words...It does not wait to be told: “how.” It goes out and creates the conditions to apply that “how” based on the rules that allow for it. 

Now some of you reading the above may think that sounds a bit convoluted. I can assure you, it is not. Let me demonstrate by asking the following... 

Does a Grand Lodge charter a Lodge first by preordaining: Its location, its officers, members, and everything else required? 

Or... 

Does a Grand Lodge provide said charter only after the applicant has met all its rules for governance? 

This is a very big distinction containing a very important difference. So much so, I’ll wager the following... 

If the first were true: not only would there be no 300-year history, it would’ve been lucky to ever reach 30. 

And for those looking to use the Moon and its Special Deputation carried out by Bro. Aldrin as an obscure example of “gotcha!.” That solitary act alone should tell you all one needs to know about the fraternity’s viewpoint, dedication, and stance for being relevant in the future. So, “gotcha back!” but I digress. 

Yet, as the fraternity sits today, there seems to be an overwhelming contingency of Masons demanding either the Grand Lodge of their jurisdiction, or a consortium of GL’s, come to their rescue with plans to either halt their diminishing membership roles, or at the least, enact measures and programs to subside them. 

Here’s the thing... 

(Note: Before anyone calls for my immediate dismissal. All I ask is that you re-read the opening paragraph above as I further elaborate on my point. Then, do as you will.) 

Ready? 

Grand Lodges are where ideas go to die - not born. And you should be grateful that’s the case. 

Now, before I explain my reasoning, let me make the following abundantly clear: What follows are sweeping generalities for discussion purposes as to frame my argument. I am not, nor do I claim to be, an expert or scholar on the U.S. Grand Lodge system. However, if one wants to better understand the founding of this system in that light, I highly recommend “Exploring Early Grand Lodge Freemasonry” by C. Murphy and S. Eyer - 2017, Plumbstone, as a resource. 

The Grand Lodge (GL) system in the U.S. is compiled via a set of complete autonomous entities. In other words: what is good for one jurisdiction may not be seen as such in another and vice versa, allowing for each to “do their own thing.” 

However, to rectify the issue of one GL going too far, or another not far enough. Any GL has the autonomy to not recognize another in toto. Meaning - all Masons chartered via any particular GL could find themselves, suddenly, without warning, labeled “clandestine” by no fault or impetus of their own doing. GL’s are sovereign unto themselves. 

Give that paragraph some serious contemplation for a few moments, because inherent within proves just how entrepreneurial our system truly is. And far too many don’t fully appreciate that significance. 

In other words - the authority and ability to take action and set its course appropriately, as it (GL) sees fit, is enshrined within its foundations from the highest officeholder to its lowly Mason. Of course, with the caveat: within its rules. 

This is not by chance. This type of autonomy is rarely if ever, found in the business world. The closest would be the franchise model and in comparison that, too, is worlds apart.
Its closest, true working example, is in the original founding of the U.S. political structure using States rights and Federal forbearance, unique to the world at large. 

Funny how that is, yes? Pure coincidence, right? Right? 

So, what does this all have to do with my “GL’s are where ideas...” statement? Great question, and it is this: 

GL’s are where the foundational tenets reside and are enforced. Its sole duty is to make sure the practice, as well as the institutional form of Freemasonry, are being followed in accordance with its constitution and by-laws. It is the sole arbiter for approval or denial to any changes affecting its jurisdiction. Its primary and sole concern is for the fraternity and Brothers under its care. All other considerations are secondary.

Here’s why the above is important... 

Just imagine if every “Great idea!” was not only put into practice, but rather, codified into the equivalent of masonic law by any given GL, at any given time. 

Can you imagine the chaos that would erupt yearly from just one district to another if one suddenly, without warning, had to follow another’s “great idea!” if, for example: wasn’t on board with it; didn’t have the necessary manpower or facilities to facilitate it; or just wasn’t sure about any of it? 

Here, let’s have some fun with math, shall we? 

Multiply the above by each district under just one GL, then, multiply that using the differing jurisdictions across the U.S. i.e., GL vs GL vs GL, etc., etc., etc. How many different combinations for possible clandestine arguments can you come up with? And, I didn’t even mention the “Irregular.” Now, what’s the total? 

Hint: Pythagoras would be hard-pressed, for the number is simply off-the-charts. 

GLs are there to quell most if not all initiatives unless they are proved out over considerable time in real-world application as to garner serious consideration. In other words - change is to happen slowly, if at all, by design. 

(Note: For those looking to prove me wrong in that statement, all I ask from you is to read just the introduction portion (pages one thru six) of Henry Wison Coil’s “A Comprehensive View Of Freemasonry” 1973, Macoy Publishing. Then, make your judgment.) 

Yes, GLs do come up with initiatives of their own. But, what they are there for, primarily, is to enforce the fundamental adherence and coherence to Freemasonry’s tenants. 


If a GL were to adopt every “Great idea!” that came up year after year and codified it into its by-laws at every annual conclave? It would set heads-to-spinning throughout the fraternity trying to decipher if compliance was necessary; voluntary; or should even be acknowledged in the first place. So, most, if not all, meet the scythe of “under committee review,” where it’s all about as good as dead. (“dead” meaning: in the immediate, not the future.) 

This is not a bad thing, as a matter of fact, and principle, it’s ingenious. 

Many Freemasons like to stand tall (and should) while bragging how the founding of the U.S. (Did you know G.W. was a Mason?) was primarily a masonic endeavor. They point to its Constitution, Declaration for Independence, its checks and balances via its three separate branches, State’s rights vs Federal, a Representative Republic, et cetera, et cetera. 

Then, what seems in the very same breath, many of this same cohort appear to dismiss all of it with some wanting or call for a central or unified GL with overarching authority to “fix” things. 

“Are you kidding me?!” is my gut reaction. I mean, is that not anathema to everything you just recited as a reason for pride? 

Yet, that is precisely what we are seeing today. Why? 

Here’s my rationale: It’s a management-centric philosophy trying to solve an inherent entrepreneurial solution. 

Freemasonry, as its constructed via its GL system in the U.S., much like the U.S. in its founding - is entirely based on an entrepreneurial model that not only allows for entrepreneurial solutions but, rather, demands them. (e.g., Think: States Rights vs Federalized) 

Most solutions to problems don’t come rolling down from on high. Where the best do originate, is where the action is the closest to those affected. i.e., grassroots level. And our current system, if one truly analyses it, both GL as well as governmental, is constructed to be: grass-root centric. Or, in the fraternity’s case - Lodge and members centric. 

Our GL system is still much intact as to the founding of the U.S. It is an amazing achievement that is given very little thought today, let alone, its due accolades. 

And with it, has enshrined the most powerful tool available to the fraternity to fix whatever it believes is broken, which is... 

The singular Lodge and its Masons. 

These two (or singular Lodge, if you wish) have extraordinary liberty to define, then chart, their own destiny as it sees fit. 

It is in many ways, a sovereign unto itself, operating within another sovereign. It is unique when compared to any other entity, much like the U.S. is unique in comparison to any other. 

The consternation that befalls so many is trying to apply one overlay for “fixing” issues from another which appear similar, but in its actual working processes, are worlds apart. 

A relative example would be comparing a session of Parliament in the U.K. with a session of Congress in the U.S. solely from the perspective of watching it on television. They look very similar in many ways, but in reality, the two are worlds apart. 

In other words, most are looking for answers in all the wrong places, using all the wrong examples, because they “look” similar. 

Hint: Usually, not only are many dissimilar, but trying to interchange certain “parts” without fully comprehending the aspects and intricacies is more akin to using a metric screw in a U.S. standard hole. Side by side to the mechanically challenged - they look identical. But use one mistakenly--need I say more? 

Maybe what I should do is say it a bit differently, for effect. Ready? 

How many more times is someone going to propose what the fraternity (i.e., their GL in particular) needs to do is to allow for Lodges to “Be more like ___________.” (fill in your social club of choice here)? 

In reality, what they're truly asking for, is: Why do we have to adhere to all this masonic stuff? Can’t we just pay homage to it as our legacy? Then, we can eat and get to the bar next door, or the card game quicker! If we do that, well then, we’ll surely get more members and retain those we have! 

Do you see the issues here, for they are multi-fold? 

Here’s just two. The first: Why not just ask a GL to dissolve itself “for the sake of retaining and gaining membership.” 

And, the second: We need to do this so we can follow another currently failing model, so we can fail more like them! 

I wish the above was just me trying to be snarky. The issue here is, I’m not. 

That’s really more or less what far too many are calling for. And they are bewildered (some downright incensed!) that many at a GL level don’t see their point! 

The issue is, I believe, a good may of them do. And thank God for it. However, in the meantime, they (GLs) are themselves trying to come up with ideas that can work, but their entire structure demands: extreme caution; well thought through forbearance for civil liability catch-22s, and a host of others that are lost upon most Lodges and/or members. 

However, here is where the genius of our system shows itself, which is... 

The fraternity allows extreme latitude for the implementation of different ideas to both run, retain, and attract new members at the Lodge level. 

Most GL’s (along with many a MWM past or present) are more than willing to help or provide aid and/or support to any Lodge trying to do good in these areas. With the caveat, of course - that you are doing all in accordance with current rules, along with, you are not doing anything that can be interpreted as sullying the fraternity or opening it up to any civil litigation. (Think: raffles, sweepstakes, alcohol sales, and such.) 

Here’s why the above is so important to understand... 

This puts all the complaints for “change” right where they belong, which is - back into the complaining hands to do something about it themselves, from where they stand. 

Or, said differently: Whatcha gonna do with that complaint you’re holding? Stare at it some more, or do something about it? Because - it’s all up to you! 

As much as there are Lodges losing membership, with the double whammy, of non-returning members that have to be pondered year to year as: Will they or won’t they send in their dues this year? There are a plethora of newly created, reconstituted, and more Lodges that are not only surviving - but thriving. Why? 

They looked in the mirror, then looked around themselves for others of like minds, and within the current GL structure, created a place and atmosphere that was conducive to not only their wishes, but Freemasonry at its core. 

What they did not do, nor are they trying to do - is be more like other social clubs. 

As a matter of fact, currently, some of the most inspiring Lodges are working from the premise of doing exactly the opposite of what most of those complaining (as well as failing) Lodges are calling for. e.g., They’re getting back to a Lodge being a Temple, where Brothers meet and discuss Freemasonry-centric ideas, concepts, and practices. 

All this is being done via their own volition, not some “grand plan” handed down from on high. 

Here are just four examples in four different GL jurisdictions, in no special order... 

Arts & Sciences Lodge No. 792, Hilliard, Ohio Lodge Vitruvian No. 767, Indianapolis, Indiana Lexington Lodge No. 1, Lexington, Kentucky Spes Novum No. 1183, Libertyville, Illinois

There are many, many more, and I’m not even mentioning the resurgence of Research Lodges, available speakers and lectures on wide-raging topics, podcasts, vid-blogs, vid-education seminars, masonic confabs, and the list keeps growing. All this when supposedly Covid is said to be “the end” for the fraternity. 

Using just the above: It would appear my thesis for “most are looking for answers in all the wrong places” is far more apt than some may give credit for. Because, if you’re watching these Lodges alone - Covid has been nothing more than a workable inconvenience. Possibly, making them even stronger, rather than some foretelling death sentence. 

This is where your attention should be, but more importantly, how they possibly accomplished such. 

When people discuss or relate business premises from the aspect of the entrepreneur the go-to example they always use is: the startup. 

What that implies is: disruption. But disruption from what, exactly? 

Well, usually, it’s just something against the accepted norms. But in many cases, that’s not relevant. 

The relevant, as in important part of the matter, is that someone or a group of someones decided to start where they were. Let the challenges come as they may, or be damned! 

Many times this is done from the outside, yet, sometimes, it’s done inside the very system they’re trying to change. 

If it’s inside?
Well, there’s going to be more rules to follow, or maybe bend. If it’s outside?

Well, there are maybe not as many rules, but then, there are the laws, as in real bonafide laws punishable by fines, incarceration, or both type laws. Catch my drift? 

But, to an entrepreneur: Both can be seen as winning tactical advantages, rather, than losing obstacles. 

Here’s an analogy I’ve coined that I use when discussing disruption aspects... 

Rules are made to be broken. Laws are made to be exploited.

(Just a note: That little phrase, when understood properly, can be worth $Millions if not $Billions when utilized by the right hands and/or circumstances. Think about it. And there it is for you, free.) 

Let’s continue... 

Our system allows for you to need only worry about the internal rules. GLs ensure (as in - won’t allow) you don’t go off in a direction that could impart harm to the fraternity. e.g., break any laws. 

But within our rules, you have nearly unchallenged ability to chart your own course to either prosper - or fail. 

Note: The most pervasive “rule” that is defended as if it's chiseled in stone is the one that sounds like “Well, that’s the way we’ve always done it.” That may be a general rule, but I’ll wager it's not a rule in the codebook, nor masonic law. And if it’s not? Implying it can’t be changed is called: folklore, which is even less. 

Yet, here’s probably the most important aspect to all of this that you will not find anywhere else in the profane: The ability to enact change, real change, is all, basically, free of charge and at your disposal. 

There is no other place in business where you can be part of a global franchise, try to get your startup up and off the ground with the resources that are available to you, basically, free of charge till you finally apply for Charter. 

Repeat: Nowhere.
And if you fail; what’s your sunk cost? Time? 

Please, spare me. 

Anyone that’s ever started anything from scratch hoping to build upon it dares not to ever think about the sunk costs in money alone they put down several (if not a myriad!) rat-holes. It’s just par for the course. Time? Again, par for the course. 

Basically, all you (e.g., Brothers) have to do is decide that whatever it is your complaining about - ain’t working - and you’re now going to seriously do something about it. Then, start doing it. 

That’s it. No money or permission required. So, what’s stopping you? 

Here’s something else you should consider... 

If you do it with sincerity and earnest application for the work and time involved, I’ll wager dollars-to-donuts you’ll both attract others, as well as retain them. 

I’ll also garner, you’ll begin getting the attention of those in the higher chairs to pay attention to what you’re doing. For they themselves are feeling the same circumstances and are looking for bonafide help in this area for ideas and more they, too, can utilize and/or take to other parts of the Craft. 

And yet - all one hears are complaints about how come this, or how come that. It’s all laughable when looked through via an entrepreneurial lens. And if any would like to prove me wrong, or think I’m overstating the “it’s all in your hands” argument or any other premise. Again, all I ask of you is the following... 

Buy, borrow, or whatever else you need to do as to get, Robert Johnson’s latest book “How To Charter A Lodge.” Then follow or implement the guidelines or suggestions laid out within it that fit your specific objective. And - GO!

For its a concise, thoughtfully laid out, treatise of “How To’s” for starting, reforming, and more. All within our current GL system. 

The only thing required to make it all work? Is you. 

And here’s the best part: you can begin right where you stand, today, right now, even as you’re reading this. 

All you need to do to begin the process is decide. For are you... 

Wishing and hoping for change? 
Or, choosing to become an instrument for that change? 

I know what an entrepreneur would pick. How about you? Hope to see you in the next installment. 

-Mark St. Cyr Freemason