Answering the Question

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Ken JP Stuczynski

How many times have you been asked, "What is Freemasonry?" What do you tell them? We spend a lot of time telling them what it's not — it's not a religion (though religious), not a charity (though we are extremely philanthropic), and not a social club (though we are copiously social). We use the term Brotherhood, but even that is vague or highly subjective. For one person, it means sitting around a campfire with other men. For others, it means dropping everything to come to the aid of another. But when people start to peek behind the veil and see our rituals and traditions and etiquette, the question is fine-tuned into not so much "what" as "why."

What is the point of Freemasonry? What is it supposed to do for people and the world? As much as it is dear to many of us, the honest truth is that we honestly don't know what it's for beyond the platitude of "making good men better." If we ask if we've succeeded in our mission of making the world better because of us, we have to dig farther and farther back to historical Masons of fame and import. In other words, not much these days, beyond impressive charity stats, of course, and perhaps local good works.

If we adhere to the bumper sticker of "making good men better," we immediately come up against the next question, "How?" The intellectuals among us then borrow the much older description of Masonry as a "system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols." Well, okay then. Is the mystery solved or just beginning? We may call it "a moral science," but that has more a tone of research and abstraction. We could talk of its alchemical roots in the refinement of matter of spirit, but that diatribe falls on deaf ears more concerned with getting ready for the next degree or feeding one's family.

In other words, the answers we tend to give are more smoke than fire, and certainly inadequate in terms of Light. In New York, we have started encouraging the deployment of banners developed by Grand Lodge that read, "A brotherhood of upstanding men continuing a tradition of making a difference," followed by a well-worded call-to-action and link to DiscoverMasonry.Com. I recognize the arduous thought that went into what I would admit is a million-dollar, finely-tuned marketing slogan. If the question is, "how do we get more members?" then we're on the right track. It gives high moral status to those who associate with our Brand. It says we give a damn and are willing to work with integrity to make the world better — an answer I've given many times to the question at hand.

But does that tell us anything about Masonry itself, regarding moral improvement or otherwise? If it can be summed up with a value statement that fits on a banner, then why do we have ritual? Why have countless books been written on Masonic philosophy? But then there are Masons with 50-year aprons and above who haven't cracked a single book on the subject. There must be a simpler answer — one that cuts through book-based esotericism and speaks to the heart.

Well, I found that yesterday.

RW Richard Friedman is a marine, practicing psychologist, the current Grand Lecturer for my jurisdiction, and most importantly to me, a Brother of which I have the highest admiration. He is tough but loving, strict but encouraging, humble yet highly respected. And his response to discovering how common it was that Brothers were reading rather than truly knowing the ritual gave me the best-fitting key to unlock this most important of questions.

"Masonry is a continuous improvement program for our brains, heart, and soul.
Masonry is supposed to be a way of life that teaches us that living within the guidelines of the ritual, we can get the most out of the gifts that the Great Architect has imbued in all of us.

It is supposed to be a daily challenge to get better in your life, a daily reminder that self-improvement never ends, and that life is what you make it.

We all should have been aware that when we took our obligations, we were promising to live a life that is a cut above normal society.

We commit ourselves to a Masonic way of life that includes brotherly love, relief, and truth. Items that are always in short supply in the profane world.

One of the first things any Entered Apprentice learns is the need to subdue his passions and improve himself in Masonry. It does not say let’s pull to the lowest common denominator, let’s be average, let’s not ever be a cut above in society. In fact, it urges us to bid men come to our level but refuse to descend a single step to them.

If our goal is to become average, then do we really need Freemasonry or the ritual at all? Why be selective in membership when anyone can be average? We would have to change the ritual dramatically if average is the goal!

As we no longer build in the operative sense as a Craft, the “work” of freemasonry in modern times is the effort to live our lives by incorporating the ritual into everything we do. That is how we make good men better and improve ourselves in Masonry. You cannot align with the great rank and title of Freemason if you do not know the work."
I truly feel nothing I will say or write will be but clanging cymbals or philosophical babbling bordering on pedantry compared to these words. They come from a place of Love and action, not cold rationalizations and a haphazard journey of life while incidentally wearing an Apron. Of course, even these words aren't the answer itself, as no such thing can be truly laid out in words. But they take us by the hand, ask us to rise, and fear no danger. We are all conducting each other toward the East, generation after generation, with or without expounding on metaphysics, with or without raising money for charity. The ritual is the path laid out for our ambulations of the world, and with the aid of a Brother, these questions give up their own answers freely.


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.”


by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bill Hosler, PM

As one travels down the level of life you will encounter many dates in your life in which the anniversary will make you stop and pause every year. Many of these will be good days. The days your children were born, the Graduations, the day you were married or the day you bought your first home. Most of the time when you realize what day it is you will stop and reflect. Often you will smile thinking of the events of that day and think to yourself “Was it really that long ago?” The older you get the more years will pile on behind that memory and it will make you realize how much life you have lived. You will also encounter anniversaries which are not fond to remember and place you in a somber mood, such as a passing of a friend or a Brother. Yesterday for me was one of those days.

As I write this the date is July 13th. Yesterday, three years ago on July 12th, 2018, Masonry lost a great scholar, and I lost a great friend.

For many years I have been a fan of the writing of Brother James Tresner. Jim while being a very brilliant man and great academic scholar, Jim never lost his humility. Despite all the accolades and honors bestowed upon him during his lifetime Jim remained on the level. He stayed the humble boy from Oklahoma. I must admire that.

Needless to say, Jim was and is one of my all-time favorite Masonic writers. He had a way of explaining Masonry in a way a lunkhead like me could understand. He is like Chris Hodapp in that way. In order for me to learn I need hand puppets and coloring books so I might grasp the meaning printed on the page. These men have the ability to reach me and help me actually learn. I will always be grateful for that.

I also like the way Jim would write a piece and many times when he was trying to get his point across he would use irony and sarcasm. If you know me in real life that is pretty much how I have lived my life, much to the regret of friends and relatives around me. Needless to say, Jim influenced my writing style.

I never actually met Brother Tresner in person. I would see him at the Guthrie valley of the Scottish Rite and I wanted to go up and shake his hand, maybe even have my photo taken with him. But for some silly reason, I was so star-struck I could never make myself do it. I know it was silly and I regret it now because now I will never have the opportunity.

My closest friend in Oklahoma, Lance Kats, knew of my fanboy obsession with Tresner. He used to kid me about it. He used to ask me if I still Had Jim’s poster on my bedroom wall like a lovesick teenage girl. We would exchange good-natured insults and laugh.

One day I was talking to Lance, and he told me about some Brethren from the Scottish Rite in Guthrie thought he and Jim would have a lot in common, both had a love of books and Masonry and many other things and set up a “play date” for the two. Needless to say, I was jealous and demanded to know every detail. I had no way of knowing it but I had a feeling at the time the Brethren seen something in Lance. I think something he never saw in himself.

I thought in the back of my mind the Brethren knew Tresner was having health problems and I think they hope the two would become close and Jim would be a mentor for Lance, and maybe just maybe he could help with the education at Guthrie once Jim laid down his working tools. Lance was brilliant. I know in my heart he would have excelled at the job. I dare not say he would have made a great replacement for Brother Jim. The closest I believe to that would be Most Worshipful Brother Bob Davis. But I think Lance would have been amazing. (This is just speculation on my part. I could have been completely wrong)

The night of their play date Lance went up to Guthrie, Oklahoma where Jim lived. The two had dinner at the Stables restaurant (If you are ever in Guthrie you got to go there. I suggest the steak). I guess they made small talk at dinner and once they finished they went to Jim’s house.

Lance said it was a nice house. There were books stacked everywhere. Little was said between the two he said. I guess the Brethren at the Rite never really thought about the fact that when you put two introverts together in the same space they really will not say much to each other. Both spent some time watching Jim’s cat play, saying something occasionally, and after a while, Lance said goodnight and went home. I was surprised because I would have thought two Brothers who had so much in common would have a lot to talk about. Maybe the fact that they had so much in common meant they did not need to say much to each other, both understood what was being said without words.

Not long afterward Masons in Oklahoma was saying Jim’s health was declining. So it wasn’t too surprising that day three years ago when I got an email with the news of Jim’s passing. I got that sadness in the pit of my stomach everyone knows when they learn about the death of someone they care about. I sent a text to Lance telling him a link to the announcement. I assumed he was still asleep since it was his day off.

Later that afternoon I got a call from the Senior Warden in Lance’s lodge in El Reno, Oklahoma. He asked if I was sitting down. I was sitting at my desk, so I assured him I was. I figured it was about Tresner. He quietly said, “Bill, Lance is Dead.”

I do not think my mind really grasp it. I mean he was 39 years old. After a little while, over the next couple of days, I finally began to accept it. I began to help El Reno #50 with the announcements and the Masonic service. I was honored to be one asked to speak at his service.

I truly believe that day was a great loss for Oklahoma Freemasonry and Freemasonry in general. Jim was a brilliant writer and I believe he will inspire Masons like me for decades to come. His words will stand the t4est of time. I also believe in my heart that Oklahoma Masonry had lost a future star of Masonic education with Lance’s passing.

Lance, I think would have been a brilliant asset to the future writing of Freemasonry. He was brilliant and just beginning his Masonic career. Because of the Christian fundamentalist college, he attended he could not put his writings in his own name. If he had he would have been expelled so he wrote under the Nom de plum “Brother Tech”. He posted a few things on his own Facebook page under that name which I now administer, and he posted the first chapter of a book he was going to publish in serial form on amazon entitled “A Christian's Perspective on Masonic Symbols: The Square and Compasses” It’s funny. I just went to Amazon to look up the proper name of his book and I couldn't believe all the four and five-star ratings it has received and comments saying “I can’t wait for the next installment”. It is sad they will never come.)

I’ve often thought about how weird it was that both of these men passed on the same day. Several of us have joked how they were both probably riding the escalator to Heaven discussing the pros and cons of cigars versus pipes. Or maybe they both were just riding in silence anticipating the chat they were about to have with another Masonic Brother whose last name was Pike.


WB Bill Hosler was made a Master Mason in 2002 in Three Rivers Lodge #733 in Indiana. He served as Worshipful Master in 2007 and became a member of the internet committee for Indiana's Grand Lodge. Bill is currently a member of Roff Lodge No. 169 in Roff Oklahoma and Lebanon Lodge No. 837 in Frisco, Texas. Bill is also a member of the Valley of Fort Wayne Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite in Indiana. A typical active Freemason, Bill also served as the High Priest of Fort Wayne's Chapter of the York Rite No. 19 and was commander of the Fort Wayne Commandery No. 4 of the Knight Templar. During all this, he also served as the webmaster and magazine editor for the Mizpah Shrine in Fort Wayne Indiana.

Let's Make Time for a Festive Board!

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Randy Sanders

When was the last time you truly celebrated something? For many of us, we can raise our hands with an answer of last month or this Spring because of COVID shutdowns and isolation. Let's change that answer of "meh, we celebrated" by maintaining the joy we found in returning to labor. We often make a meeting a little special by way of a congratulatory cake or small celebration for a 50-year pin, or a barbecue, or possibly a breakfast/dinner fundraiser. When is the last time your lodge did a Festive Board for no reason except the Festive Board? When is the last time your lodge put on a party for no reason? I think now's the time.

I recently expressed a similar idea for combining the Festive Board with a Valley Library fundraiser, and I'll work with the St. Louis Valley to follow through on that. However, I'm also pushing to get more festive boards going in local lodges. This tradition seems to be overlooked by many, and how many new brothers were waiting on COVID before receiving the degrees? How many of those new Brothers would benefit from a good social time, honoring Masonic traditions, and learning a bit more about Freemasonry during a Festive Board? It can and should be included in the new Brothers' experiences, and who knows? Maybe those new Brothers decide to pick up the torch and organize the next one?

In some areas, Festive Boards and Table Lodges are close to the same thing. However, In my jurisdiction, (Missouri), they are quite different. I bring this up as you may need Grand Lodge dispensation before putting on a Table Lodge or Festive Board, and it's worth the time to investigate with your own Grand Lodge, your lodge bylaws, and the GL's bylaws what permissions are needed. This investigation may also generate interest from the Grand Lodge, and that's a good thing.

Recommendations for making the Festive Board or Table Lodge a success can be found in old minutes from various lodges, but the biggest initial recommendation is to play up the novelty. That is, focus on the positive of doing something different. Find a speaker. If you are fortunate to know local Brothers comfortable in presenting educational topics, have them do a short 20-30 minute presentation on a fun topic. Masonic Education may not be the only way to make the evening memorable, but it's a fair bet that a good education topic will start some discussion afterward. Does it have to be Masonic? Check with your Grand Lodge about how open your festive boards might be. Mine are not tiled, but we're still careful in topics and how we phrase certain words and subjects. Inviting the local Mayor or a City Council member to speak may get you closer to the community. Inviting the local officers of the Toastmasters organization to give a speech they wrote for Toastmasters can be an excellent lesson in Rhetoric. I'm sure you get the idea that a good presentation can come from many different sources with a little investigation.

Keep it short. What? Why? The Festive Board, or Table Lodge, itself shouldn't be very long. Multiple long toasts need to be broken up with announcements or quick topics for conversation. I found a couple of hours, including refreshments, to be the limit of my own enjoyment, and then I can retire to the patio or designated area for less formal conversation over a beverage of choice. Many Brethren enjoy an occasional cigar with that beverage, and that can mean another hour or more just hanging out, spreading the cement of Brotherly Love. Oh yeah, and definitely put the word out you'll all need designated drivers.

~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.

Quality of Life

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Ken JP Stuczynski

In preparing to be Master of a Lodge for the first time, I met with many a Past Master for advice. But there was one Brother, not a Past Master, but a DSA (Distinguished Services Award recipient), who bent my ear and placed in my lap an inch-thick compilation of ideas and notes. Bro. Marlin had been a Mason for over 60 years, and served as Trustee for some of those. He had no ritual or formal leadership aspirations but is passionate about the Craft. And the stack of papers in front of me was a testament to no small amount of thought given to it.

I met with him earlier this year, and we went over some of the same ideas and thoughts. I had incorporated many of them into my plan the year I was Master, some without success and others with success, but in a way different than he had envisioned. After all, even good ideas need to conform to circumstances, such as Masonic Law or the wishes of the Brethren in general. Over lunch with his wife at their kitchen table, he reiterated these ideas, expressing how, at 94 years old, he seeks assurance that Masonry will be fine in the generations after him. That America will be fine. And the two are intimately connected, as our Country needs fine gentlemen to be among its leaders more than ever.

Sure, everybody thinks they know how a Lodge (and Masonry) is supposed to be run, but I found his sense of organization and methodology impressive and inspiring. He recognizes (as many of us do) that continuity is a big issue. Officers having required requisite duties, passing down project and program binders, and an assistant to the Master in the development of the Trestle Board all make sense, and some Lodges already have these things in some form. It's just hard to turn practices into habits and then traditions if they are not already in place, and being a Lodge merged ten years earlier (and other circumstances since then) such things had still not been firmly established in our Lodge.

But then he said something that summed up the value of Masonry in a way I had never heard before:

Masonry should improve the quality of life of its members and the community.

We can talk about "making good men better" but how do we measure that? Can we say we succeed if it is not reflected in our personal lives and the public sphere? What specific skills or habits can we learn that will make us better husbands and fathers? In what personal way can we impact the community other than charity dollars and hours? His answer may not be the same as mine or yours, and it may or may not apply to your Lodge, but I will share it here.

Amongst the Brethren, we should know what we each do professionally. No, Masonry is not a business networking group. But yes, helping each other professionally can improve our quality of life and that of our families. There is a wise prohibition against pimping ourselves out, but we don't have to hide what we do. And it's part of who we are – a full third of our gauge – that we can share with each other. To that end, a directory of members with such information may be useful.

But why stop there? What if we take our professional talents and extend them into the community in an educative way? Bro. Marlin suggests an occupational showcase where youth and others have a chance to speak with Brothers in various professions.

Why not promote student skills workshops? How about simple lessons in courtesy and etiquette? There are even families that do not have someone there to teach a young man how to have a firm handshake and make eye contact, let alone tie a tie (as archaic as that may be in the not-so-distant future). The possibilities are only limited by the needs and receptiveness of the community. One of Bro. Marlin's favorite ideas is to showcase The Great Courses. We are now flooded with documentaries on YouTube and television, but these courses (DVD and online) are pretty hardcore. Again, results may vary, but why not explore this?

The interesting thing to contemplate is how much these sorts of things take us back to our operative roots. The Guilds and their descendant entities were centers of occupational connections and learning within their communities. They didn't just bring value by the work of their hands, but by their place within the everyday lives of the community.

But how do we ultimately measure quality of life in this context? Maybe the best way is to answer different questions. Would we be no better or worse off if we were not members of our Lodge? Would the community miss us if we were gone? We may not remember the Orders of Architecture, but we will remember those times we have been there for each other as human beings, spiritually, socially, and even professionally. The community may not understand our traditions or rituals, but they ought to feel our presence by our impact, not by fundraisers but by charity, not by bumper stickers and slogans but by scholarships and other things in line with the above.

Quality of Life seems like the perfect way to measure our success, the visible fruits of morality, our virtues, and our principles.


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”.

Unseen In Plain Sight

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Mark St. Cyr

As is usually the case after reading a good thought-provoking article, my mind begins to run that process up to 11. Such was the case when I finished Midnight Freemasons co-editor, Bro.  Lahners, recently titled article: “The Circumpunct.” 

What follows is not anything you’re going to read in our ritual or possibly hear others discuss. As a matter of fact, the more I  probed different resources and fellow Masons, the more I found such to be nonexistent.  

This doesn’t mean that I am the first or only one to ever posit it,  let alone, dare declare I am correct. However, as I iterated above,  I have yet to see it elsewhere. 

So, with that said, here we go… 

How many times has one heard the description for the symbol using the circumpunct and two parallel lines described to mean  “The Holy Saints John” and that’s it? i.e., No further explanation other than who or why these particular saints, and why you should know.  

In other words: the symbol is constructed for that purpose only.  i.e., to aid in remembering them. 

Personally, this assertion never sat correctly with me, for reasons I can’t explain other than - a gut reaction.  

Then one evening I had the great fortune to tune into a  presentation featuring renowned masonic scholar, Bro. S. Brent  Morris via the Rubicon Masonic Society of Lexington, KY, where he expressed his own difficulty with this idea given to the symbol and its meaning.

Or, to state it differently - it may be touted everywhere, but that doesn’t mean it’s fact. And once hearing someone like Bro.  Morris question the story’s validity, it then gave me license to ponder my own that seemed to be making more sense within my questioning for the “why” aspect of any symbol. 

You may agree or disagree, but my hope is you’ll find my interpretations worthy of further thought and contemplation. For this began as I thought further of what Bro. Morris was explaining, who had used as his basis another work titled “The  Point Within A Circle” by Bro. William Steve Burkle. 

I far from think this is the last word on this or any other symbolism we interpret. As a matter of contention, I hope it makes us look at everything with fresh eyes, for we may have been missing the forest as we stood before the trees as the old saying goes. Or, should I say: “Altar within the Temple?” 

We’ve all seen this image representing the symbol and its explanation such as that via Bro. Hodapp in “Freemason For  Dummies” 2005, Wiley Publishing.

The reason why I would like to focus on the above is for the obvious inclusion of the Bible (or, VSL, Volume of sacred law, if you prefer). It begs the question: Why? Because sometimes it’s there, and sometimes it’s not. Again: Why?

All of our symbolism is meant to be precisely that - a symbol to describe both hidden and deeper meanings, decipherable by those that have either been instructed to its meaning or, concluded via their own deeper and well-postulated searches.

Said differently: No symbol should ever be assumed to contain a depiction (or not) haphazardly. Care should be highly weighted to the aspect that careful decision-making processes which went into the creation of the symbols via their creator.

For, if a symbol seems to not make sense, especially when reasons given leave one confused even more? If any assumptions are warranted, it’s probably safe to assume the continued confusion has more to do with how one is trying to view or fit it into the wrong constructs rather than its original intent.

Back to Bros. Morris and Burkle…

In the beginning, I referenced Bro. Morris’ description of how he viewed the symbol using his trained mathematical background while building on what Bro. Burkle proposed. It went a bit like this…

First, let’s dissect the following image into its parts and give a generally agreed-upon synopsis.

What we have here is the classic symbol we all know. And it was here that Bro. Morris built his hypothesis on top of the Bro. Burkle’s. (Fig:1)

Because, if we were to take and draw a straight line across the top of the circle (aka tangent line), regardless of tilt, crossing each of the parallel lines, something extraordinary takes place geometrically. (Fig:2)

This now allows precise placement points to connect the center dot to each of the crossing points, which creates a perfect right angle. (Fig:3)

This realization and more was what Bro. Burkle pointed out in his original work. Bro. Morris added the argument that this was probably more than likely intentional and hypothesized why via its inherent effectiveness for use in ancient times as a precision inspection device, as to check actual squares that may have been damaged during usage. All the while being able to keep concealed the actual how-to reserved for the Master Masons.

In other words, only Fig:1 would be allowed to be seen by all. However, when a MM needed to use it for inspection, all he would need to do was draw his lines as shown in Fig:2 and Fig:3 with, say, a piece of charcoal. He could then check for alignment, pass or fail the instrument, assign a new square or call for it to be repaired et cetera. Then, with a scuff of the hand or foot, erase his inspection lines.

Master’s knowledge is once again concealed to only the Master.

This made so much sense to me I suddenly found myself beginning to add my own possible inclusions, as different things I had been researching prior, seemingly, began to jump in front of my mind and line up in a way that can only be expressed using the “dam breaking” analogy.

Here’s my first for your consideration.

I believe this (e.g., Fig:1) may be one of the most important symbols in all masonry, both speculative and operative. Here’s why…

Without rehashing all the above, I would like for you to consider the following…

With no more than a piece of string or its equivalent, one could layout in perfect form a precision inspection device to make the three most important basic working tools used to construct the ancient wonders we still marvel at today. e.g., The Plumb, Level, and Square.

Yes, it all would start with basically a string then adding a stone to first create a plumb-line. From there, you could construct all the rest. Think about it. No math required, no precise measurements, nothing more is needed. Start with a plum line and you can use that to create the rest. One builds off the other, or allows reference for the other and so forth.

And no, I’m not going to layout how. Just think about it, for it’s really not that complicated. But, once you do, its inherent genius hits one like a ton of bricks. (pun intended!)

I think there’s another reason why this observation may be important as I’ll demonstrate. Just keep in mind, that it takes a plumb-line to begin the process. We’ll see why that may have more significance as we go along. My second revelation came from the symbolic interpretations and discussions of Bro. W. Kirk MacNulty for which I am a continual student of his work. (He recently passed to the Celestial Lodge on Nov. 8, 2020)

He had posited that the symbol (Fig:1) actually represents the candidate at the altar. I believe that conclusion is absolutely correct if we use the now expanded interpretations for this symbol.

Before we move forward, let’s go back a few steps and briefly discuss what is the actual root symbol of all of them. Remember which one? Hint: the circumpunct.

Why is this so important and quite possibly the most important of all? Well, not only has it been used for millennia as a symbol for gold, but it also is used as a signifier for alchemical relationships or processes. And what is more alchemical or transformative than the man going through the degrees as to reach the sublime degree of MM? Personally, I believe, nothing is.

So, if we hold the above thoughts in our toolbox. What else could we use to help support the possibilities that not only are we on the right path for interpretation but more importantly, help solidify the reasoning for it?

Good question, let’s do precisely that, shall we?

Using Bro. MacNulty’s conclusion that indeed it may very well be the candidate at the altar. What would that look like using the same basic representation of Fig:1 and Fig:2? Well, here it is.

Now for those that noticed the top line is now level instead of tilted, there’s a reason why I used a tilted in the first (e.g., Fig:2, etc.). That was to demonstrate that you didn’t need a level line to make the square, just straight. For then the square could make it level. (Remember how we showed how one builds the other without the need for precise measurements, only precise reference points?)

So, using the above, let’s now overlay the pictorial interpretation of what this symbol may imply and see if there’s any there, there. (Fig:5)

Is it not just a bit too coincidental that this seems to be able to fit an almost exacting interpretation rooted in the symbology of a candidate at the altar using the above representation? (e.g., Fig:5)

Let’s stay sided on the pure coincidence argument for the time being and see if there’s anything more worth considering to help move a skeptics eye to more of an all-seeing one.

Speaking of “all-seeing.” Remember how I stated earlier to keep in mind why a plumb-line may show itself to be more important than originally thought? Let’s do that, but first…

Remember what a plumb-line does: It aligns the top with a bottom. That’s the most fundamental purpose, right? So, I ask, is it just coincidence if we use this fundamental tool to both speculative and operative masons, it in its most fundamental way, that it expresses the following. To wit: (Fig:6)

To reiterate: If we take and combine the very real and distinct revelations from Bros., Morris, Burkle, and MacNulty while overlaying both the pictorial representations and pointing out the hidden geometrical revelations contained within. Something completely amazing begins to reveal itself.

Your thoughts may vary or completely disagree. Yet, to me, this seems to make far too much sense via its inherent self-expression, which is always my go-to precursor of interpreting possible truth.

Let’s continue, using that backdrop, for the following representations for further contemplation. Again, to wit:
(Fig:7) (Fig:8)

Back to the plumb-line. Notice that when we represent it precisely as its intended use, what does it fall on? Hint: Remember what Bro. MacNulty said the symbol expressed?

Here it is with the overlays. Please take note that it is also the only tool that allows not only the creation for all the others but also to perfect them in alignment as I explained prior. (Fig:9)

All just mere coincidence? Again, the two St. Johns fit perfectly in this example, not solely for their perpendicular nature, which many might have also concluded were just representative of the two columns within most Lodges.

However, if we stick with Bro. MacNulty’s interpretation is that the original symbol (Fig:1) was representing the candidate at the altar. Then this interpretation I posit fits far better because the Holy Saints John represents (not solely) two different sides of personality traits. And if we follow that, again, basing it on Bro. MacNulty’s work with symbolism. This is precisely what is meant to be expressed via much of our symbolism contained within Lodge. Especially at the altar. Such as…

Our black and white checkered floor (Masonic pavement) representing polar opposites, good - ill, positive-negative, joy - sorrow, light - darkness, etc., etc., etc. All being restrained in balance within its tessellated border.

Columns can also be representative of the balance he (Bro. MacNulty) has expressed. As in, one pulls the other looking for and keeping equilibrium between the two.

Let me be clear: these are all general postulations I’m proposing via my own interpretations extruded from the work of others.

I’m not saying they are the correct or only ones. Your interpretations or understandings may differ.

But that’s what makes a marketplace for ideas, as they say.

I just find it extraordinarily far past the point of coincidence that all three of our most important working tools: “Square, Level, and Plumb. Represented via our most senior officers within a Lodge. Are precisely the only ones that can be expressed in perfect geometric representation for proving that the candidate at the altar, is completely square, plum, and on the level before God at the altar.

Pretty amazing coincidences if that’s all that it is, yes? This is precisely why I doubt that’s the case.

What do you think? I look forward to reading from anyone that either concurs, disagrees, or has something other to offer.

Do precisely that by either leaving your views and references in the comment section here on this website or, on any social media it may appear.

It would benefit us all.

Mark St. Cyr - Freemason

Marking Time

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Randy Sanders

When in High School, I was part of the competition marching band.  We did pretty well, and I learned many of my lessons in discipline and perseverance while practicing very early and during very long hours.  I gave up my summers while dedicating it to marching practice and playing the music until perfect.  This period also marks my initiation and activity in the local DeMolay chapter, although by my Junior and Senior years I had already found my attention and focus had drifted toward band practice and the competitions.

The discipline and perseverance paid off, although admittedly I could have benefited from some lessons in patience.  We won the competitions, traveled, won more competitions, and suddenly the season was over.  No more Friday football games, no more 6:15am Mellophone sectionals, nada.  It left a void in me until the next marching season was upon us.  I enjoyed sleeping in a couple of hours later each morning before classes started, but there was something important missing in me.  That void was tangible in that I missed working together with my classmates trying to perfect a move or emphasize some piece of music.  I feel the same in lodge as we go dark for a couple of months in the summer or get into the Holidays.

I previously wrote about the need to refresh ourselves and recharge our Masonic batteries, and that still applies.  I’m happy and a bit relieved that my Blue Lodges and most other bodies are rather quiet during the heat of our summer as I need the break.  Yet, here I am with the void again.  I’m looking at my calendar wondering where I can go sit with Brothers this evening or next?  Who opted not to go dark, so maybe I can help out with some degree work or just show up showing support?

I know I’m not alone with these feelings of simply marking time, and returning to degree work after COVID was a blessing for us all.  I encourage you to reach out to your lodge brothers that you haven’t seen in a while.  Pick 5 or 10, and simply send them a text.  Pick up the phone and call a few of the older generations that may not be as comfortable with texting.  They may be a bit nervous about returning to lodge, and maybe that friendly voice, mouth-to-ear, is something they need to hear.  I know it helps me when I hear from Brothers.

~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.

Coming Back Is Not Easy

by Senior Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Gregory J. Knott

I don’t know about you, but returning to meetings for the blue lodge and other groups has been harder than I thought.   After basically a year of not attending meetings in person, I’ve come to see I have a different perspective on the necessity of my attendance.   I haven’t had as much free time as I did in the last year since I was very young and I have very much enjoyed not going to as many meetings.

As we get back into full speed, I have personally made the determination that I am going to attend meetings I wish to attend, not because I have to attend.   My days of going to mindless business meetings that really serve no purpose other than to plan the next mindless business meeting or talk about who is behind on paying dues are going to be limited.   

This isn’t to imply that I am down on Freemasonry, because I am not.  However, for me, Freemasonry isn’t reading the minutes, talking about a roof for months on end or complaining about the same guys who don’t pay their dues on time year after year.    Freemasonry to me should be educational opportunities, fellowship, service to others, and work within the community all with a purpose of individual self-improvement. 

What are your thoughts on returning to the lodge?  Do you look at things differently?  Are you satisfied with the way things were going before the pandemic and hope they return?  I am curious about your thoughts and perspectives.   Please leave them here in the comments or on our Facebook page at


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

Give me the pass of a Master Mason!!!

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners

I was able to check off a few items from my masonic bucket list this past weekend.  The first item was checked off when I, at the invitation of my good friend and brother, Dustin Farris, attended a Third Degree at John C. Ellis Lodge #17 of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Illinois in Decatur, Illinois. I was pleased to meet many new brothers,  including Most Worshipful Brother Clarence W. Trotter, who was Grand Master of the MWPHGLIL from 1995 - 1997. I was also able to meet a brother I had met virtually during the pandemic, Ryan Flanigan, and one of his brothers, Adam Friend, both of whom drove from Springfield to Decatur to witness the degree.       

They had a total of six fellowcraft in waiting to get raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason that day. I will say that what I witnessed was I thought as unlikely as the Warfaring Man telling the three fellowcraft that he didn't see the ruffians attempt to book a passage into Ethiopia and that they did not turn back into the country.  In doing so, this would have then resulted in the twelve fellowcraft being judged guilty of the murder of our Grandmaster H.A. and being executed instead of the guilty party of three.

I have often wondered what the "confusion" mentioned in our ritual would actually look like.  The line has fascinated me since I saw it as a reply to the Worshipful Master for someone who is not vouched for as being a brother giving a bad pass in our ritual. Other than a dramatized version of it in the second section of the Third Degree, when there are no designs on the trestle board, I had never seen a real-world example until this degree. It was always a masonic bucket list item that I never thought I would get checked off.  Maybe I'm one of those men that Alfred, as played by Sir Michael Caine (and as some Masonic sites have him listed Brother Michael Caine), states in The Dark Knight likes to "Watch the world burn".  

The Senior Deacon brought one of the hoodwinked Fellowcraft into the lodge. The Senior Deacon is explaining the scene walking the poor, blind brother towards the First Tyrian, Jubela.  Jubela launches into his ritual, where he exclaims his delight at finding Grandmaster H.A. alone, tells H.A. since the Temple is near completion, he wishes H.A. to fulfill his promise to give him the pass of a Master Mason... thus ending the first part of his ritual by demanding: "Give me the pass of a Master Mason!!!".  The brother, having just been given the pass of a Master Mason in the first section, gave it to Jubela before the Senior Deacon could even speak his reply. 

And then it happened... Confusion.....

Past Masters React to the Pass of a Master Mason being given to Jubela 

Confusion is a misnomer. It was complete chaos.  I believe that no one else in the room had ever witnessed such an occurrence either.  The brother who was acting as the First Tyrian could not believe it.  He had to walk away, being completely flustered.  The Past Masters grumbled in a low breath. The lodge was filled with astonishment and brethren wanting to know which lodge this particular fellowcraft was from. No one knew what to do.  I was half expecting a reenactment of the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where the Ark is opened and faces began to melt.  The other half of me expected to see one of the Past Masters do something akin to Ricky Bobby stripping down to his underwear and racing helmet, running around the lodge yelling he was on fire.  Luckily, the Senior Deacon took control of the situation and brought the fellowcraft onto meet the second Tyrian, making sure that he knew only to repeat the words that the Senior Deacon uttered in reply.  He then was brought before the last Tyrian, and you know the rest of the story from here. 

To be fair, I felt bad for the poor brother who had done this.  It's obvious that he didn't understand what was happening fully, and that the Senior Deacon would be replying for him (and he would need to repeat what the Senior Deacon said to the First Tyrian).  For the record, this is different than what happens in the Grand Lodge of Illinois A.F. & A.M. ritual, as the Senior Deacon does all of the replying for brother at this point to the Tyrians.  I could empathize with the potential embarrassment he felt as well because I also had an embarrassing moment during the second section of the Third Degree.

I was serving as the intender for one of my brethren that came into the lodge after me at St. Joseph #970, Bro. Brian Clark. It was Brian's third degree so this must have taken place in 2012, and I was one of the twelve fellowcraft who went down on one knee while clad in white gloves and a white apron to plead with King Solomon and beg forgiveness after recanting in the horrid plot to extort the secrets of a Master Mason from our Grandmaster H. A. However when I went down to one knee, I heard (along with everyone else in the lodge room, even poor Hiram in his grave at that point) a loud ripping sound as my pants blew apart in the crotch area to the rear.  My face immediately turned beet red.  I immediately fled the lodge room as quickly as I could.  I drove home, an apron covering my exposed underwear, changed and returned to be able to greet Brian at the end of his degree.  Needless to say, Brian and I shared and continue to share a good chuckle over what happened. I can only hope that this brother can see the humor in what occurred to him. 

Yes, I split my pants...Fellow Midnight Freemason Greg Knott can confirm this.

While I realize that the third degree is a solemn and serious affair, and needs to be treated as such, life often brings unexpected levity to us.  We can either let the absurdity of life frustrate us, or we can roll with the proverbial punches. However, we have brothers that are there to help us off the mat if we get knocked down and can't get back up.  We see this literally occur during the second section of the Third Degree.  While not the ultimate lesson of the Third Degree, I do believe it is a pretty powerful one.  Now if I can see the ruffians escape unharmed just once during a Third Degree, my Third Degree Masonic bucket list will be complete.  After this past weekend, my hope is renewed.  

And I would have gotten away with it if not for that meddling wayfaring man


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  

A Timeless Lesson for All Freemasons

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson

It's been a spell since getting down to my Scottish Rite Valley. This last Saturday marked the first Reunion since Covid began. It was billed as a "Mini" Reunion--but make no mistake, while the day was shorter, and we had fewer degrees being put on, it was still a tremendous success. I imagine there are many Valleys across the United States and the world who are experiencing these first few events post-Covid 19, and I'll bet they're having success too.

As I mentioned, it had been a while since I had been to the Valley, and because of this, I hadn't seen the new 4th degree. First of all, you might be thinking, "New 4th degree?" Yes--as most know, the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction changes things up from time to time and rotates things around. It keeps things fresh, I suppose.

The first time I saw the 4th degree was back in 2013--I think. It was a live performance put on by my Valley, and it was cool. Although, I must admit the nature of it was less than exciting. That 4th degree was really just a few little snips of what to expect in other degrees and kind of sold you on the idea of the Scottish Rite. The next time I saw the 4th degree, it was a video--the phrase, "Hello, Hiram!" echoes in my brain still, although it's a total inside joke amongst friends and accompanied by some eye-rolling and laughing. The video was pretty cheesy.

Then, that same version got an update--A new video! I know, I know--some dudes really hate the videos. I'm not a big fan either, but it's what we sometimes have. So anyway, this new video was updated and had some better acting, better visuals, and better overall production.

When I attended our Reunion this past weekend, the 4th degree was being shown in video form, and imagine my surprise--it was a new version! Do my exclamation points give you the impression that I was shocked? Well, I was shocked. Not for the reasons you might think. This new 4th degree was an actual degree. The preview of the Scottish Rite was gone. Right away, I loved it.

This new 4th degree was fascinating. It focussed on Hiram and the building of the Temple. The lesson it threw out to the viewers was, on the surface, pretty great. But the underlying lesson was awesome--and it really was something that I think we all realize at some point in our Masonic lives.

Hiram talks to God in the degree, lamenting that the workers just follow the plans, but he alone has all this stress to design the building. He has a revelation that, well, “Teamwork makes the dream work.” He realizes that all the workers help build the temple. Let me type that out again--all the workers help build the Temple.

What is the Temple representative of again? Aha! So now think about this for just a hot minute. All the people around you, the builders--your fellow Brothers exhibit some form of influence on you and thus become a part of the workforce building your Temple.

We all know this--right? It's a given in some respects. We know that part of Freemasonry is being surrounded by good men who, in turn, influence you. I'm reminded of a quote by the famous and outlandish businessman Daniel Peña: "Show me your friends, and I'll show you your future."

I cannot say whether or not this little "lesson" was intentional in writing the new 4th degree. But what I will say is that it's a damn good reminder.


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. RWB:.Johnson currently produces and hosts weekly Podcasts (internet radio programs) Whence Came You? & several others relating to Freemasonry and the occult. 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 author and editor of several Masonic books.

The Circumpunct

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners

In the First Degree ritual, Freemasons are taught about the point within a circle or the circumpunct.  The uncyphered 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."  What is not told to you, is that the point within the circle has further allusions.

The ancient alchemical symbol for gold was often represented by the point within the circle.  In Astrology, the Sun is also represented by the point within the circle. Pythagoras, who we are taught was the inventor of the 47th problem of Euclid, was "In his travels through Asia, Africa, and Europe, was initiated into several orders of Priesthood, and is said to have been raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason.  This wise philosopher enriched his mind abundantly in a general knowledge of things, more especially in geometry, or Masonry. On this subject he drew out many problems and theorems; and among the most distinguished he erected this, when, in the joy of his heart, he exclaimed, Eureka! signifying in the Grecian language, I have found it; and upon the discovery of which he is said to have sacrificed a hecatomb."  What we are not told is that Pythagoras used this symbol to represent the Monad.  

The Monad represented to Pythagoras the point of the beginning of creation, the Supreme Being, divinity or the totality of all things.  It symbolizes an idea of cosmic consciousness, a consciousness that experiences itself and learns from itself by observation and experience of the micro and macro, as well as the macro and micro.  The idea of the Monad parallels that which is above Kether, which is the topmost sephirot of the Tree of Life in Kabbalah.

Prior to Creation, there was only the infinite Or Ein Sof filling all existence. When it arose in G-d's Will to create worlds and emanate the emanated ... He contracted (in Hebrew "tzimtzum") Himself in the point at the center, in the very center of His light. He restricted that light, distancing it to the sides surrounding the central point, so that there remained a void, a hollow empty space, away from the central point ... After this tzimtzum ... He drew down from the Or Ein Sof a single straight line [of light] from His light surrounding [the void] from above to below [into the void], and it chained down descending into that void. ... In the space of that void He emanated, created, formed and made all the worlds.

-Etz Chaim, Arizal, Heichal A"K, anaf 2

The Zohar states that Kether is the most hidden of all things. According to Arthur Green in his work, Guide to the Zohar, it represents the primal stirrings of intent in the Ein Soph (Infinity) or the arousal of desire to come forth into the various states of being.  Kether is associated with the name that God gives to Moses, Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh which is commonly translated as "I am that I am" in Exodus 3:14 in the King James Version of the Old Testament. "And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you."  However, Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh can also be translated as: "I am who I am," "I will become what I choose to become," "I am what I am," "I will be what I will be," "I create what(ever) I create," or "I am the Existing One."  As Kether is the first emanation, the Zohar makes it clear that "the supernal crown (keter elyon) is the crown of kingdom (keter malchut)." Meaning that the first, highest emanation of the Divine- Kether is linked to the last Malchut, a concept which was summarized by Hermes Trismegistus:  "As above, so below; as below, so above."

It is probably not an accident that the name of God is revealed in Exodus 3:14.  Pi is defined as the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter.  It is most commonly rounded to 3.14, although its decimal representation never ends nor does it settle into a permanently repeating pattern.  As God is infinite and eternal, so is the numeric representation of Pi.  

To close, I will use a story that I ran across while researching this article (that had no attributable source) to illustrate my last point.  The story goes: 
I had a professor once who had asked the class to draw the best representation of God. There were some students who drew Christ, others an old man in a chair, and then there were some that drew the Hindu gods. In the end, all he did was draw a circle on the board with a dot in the center.“This is God, the circumpunct is perhaps the most perfect symbol to represent God. The circle,” His finger traced the circle on the board. “represents the all-encompassing power and infinite limitlessness of God. While the dot,” He pointed to the center of the circle “Represents our place within God, we are part of God. The circumpunct represents the perfect union of the divine and the created. The dot can represent anything within the omnipotent divinity of God.” He walked around the room in a circle then stood in the center. “Or it can also represent the self. The circle can mean the body, or the conscious self, while the dot can represent our subconscious or super-conscious.”


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