Seasonal Gratitude

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Randy Sanders

We as Masons understand charity very well. It’s a part of our existence, right? We live in Faith, we live in Hope, and we live in Charity. As we transition into the holiday season this year, I reflected upon several deep conversations with brothers.

Charity can be a trap, and we as mentors must remain on guard as to the difference of giving as part of our selves versus giving for the feelings of return. How can charity be a trap? Helping others is no trap!

Let us examine the differences and study them so we can learn and grow together. Yes, charity for charity’s sake can turn into a trap. When we feel good, we want to repeat the steps that got us to that feel good place. We want that release of hormones that flood the body with that feel-good feeling of helping our friends and neighbors, especially children. We can become addicted to that feeling and hormone release to the point of pursuing it like a drug.

To that, I say don’t stop doing charity, but we must understand our internal motivations. Let us examine what that means inwardly. Did we just perform an act of charity, or was that act of charity just another part of our being? Those are two different things. Those are three different things if you plug in “reward” as an option. In my opinion, charity with reward is meaningful only to those receiving the charity. Those performing charity with the intent of collecting a reward on the charitable act? I don’t see that as charity.

There’s another difference that should be explored, and that is coming together for fun to do or fund charitable functions. I totally agree with this, and I encourage even more participation. Charitable organizations have a big function within society, and helping them by way of pancake breakfasts, sporting clay events, or other fundraising activities is absolutely legit. It is always good to have fellowship with my brothers while working toward a good cause.

Now we get down to the giving as a natural part of ourselves. We as Masons are not a charitable fraternity. We are not. We are a fraternity that works on a common goal of self-improvement. Period, but not the end. Self-improvement by nature includes helping others as we have been helped ourselves. Consider Plato’s cave as an example. As we come to more and more light, the cave comparison to the degrees is staggering. We are obligated to help others again and again. We are told in lecture after lecture, charge after charge, that we are to be the examples and to lead by example.

When we are living in balance, that balance is Faith, Hope, and Charity. We can discuss the original mis-translation of Agape Love into Charity, and that is a legitimate discussion. However, let’s just focus now on what charity means. Charity is a part of us. Charity/Agape balances two other pillars of that to which we aspire. Masons don’t do charity because we want a reward; we do charity because charity is part of who we are as we continue to be better people.

~RS

Randy and his wife Elyana live near St. Louis, Missouri, USA. Randy earned a Bachelors Degree in Chemistry with an emphasis in Biochemistry, and he works in Telecom IT management. He volunteers as a professional and personal mentor, NRA certified Chief Range Safety Officer and enjoys competitive tactical pistol, rifle, and shotgun. He has 30 plus years teaching Wing Chun Kung Fu, Chi Kung, and healing arts. Randy served as a Logistics Section Chief on two different United States federal Disaster Medical Assistance Teams over a 12 year span. Randy is a 32nd degree KCCH and Knight Templar. His Masonic bio includes past Lodge Education Officer for two symbolic lodges, Founder of the Wentzville Lodge Book Club, member of the Grand Lodge of Missouri Education Committee, Sovereign Master of the E. F. Coonrod AMD Council No. 493, Co-Librarian of the Scottish Rite Valley of St. Louis, Clerk for the Academy of Reflection through the Valley of Guthrie, and a Facilitator for the Masonic Legacy Society. Randy is a founding administrator for Refracted Light, full contributor to Midnight Freemasons, and an international presenter on esoteric topics. Randy hosts an open ongoing weekly Masonic virtual Happy Hour on Friday evenings. Randy is an accomplished home chef, a certified barbecue judge, raises Great Pyrenees dogs, and enjoys travel and philosophy.

This is why we can't have nice things!

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bill Hosler, PM


Growing up, I thought it was just my dysfunctional family.  Every now and then I or my brother or my sister, or two of us in a conspiracy against the other would end up doing something that would start a large argument among the Hosler children.  Screaming and name-calling ensued and eventually, something would end up getting broken because the argument would become physical.  At this point, my mom often would join the chorus of loud voices with her famous “THIS IS WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS!” cry.  I think this was an unspoken code between us siblings that we had better knock it off or the next step would be my father walking into the room like Chuck Norris, belt in hand to bring peace and quiet back to his kingdom. Dad wasn’t concerned about justice, he just wanted quiet so he could hear his television program again.  It wasn’t until I grew up until I discovered that Mom’s famous chant was something every mother says.  (Maybe it is taught at mother’s school right before the “If your friends jumped off a bridge would you jump too?” nonsense.)


Not long ago I was on a flight from Anchorage, Alaska to Oklahoma City.  The flight was long and cramped.  I was bored so I decided to find something to pass the time.  While catching up with Twitter I saw a tweet and I began to smile.  I knew I shouldn’t do it but the devil sitting on my shoulder talked me into it.  (Maybe the little angel who should have been on the other shoulder was detained by TSA.  But he was definitely not on the job.)


The tweet was posted from the account of the United Grand Lodge of England.  The photo celebrates an open house that was held at the Grand temple in London.  Pictured in the photograph were Dr. David Staples, Grand Secretary of the UGLE and the Grand Secretary of the women’s Freemason Grand Lodge in the UK.  The tweet read: “It's Grand Secretary Central! The Grand Secretaries of both the United Grand Lodge of England and Freemasonry for Women are here at @FreemasonsHall for #OpenHouseLondon today to answer any questions you may have about #Freemasonry for both men and women.


I could almost feel the moderators of The Winding Stairs Facebook Group cringe as I posted the photo.  I knew what was about to happen but since I am a moderator in the group myself with a lot of time on my hands, I thought I could keep the oncoming dumpster fire down to a smoldering campfire.


Before the flight attendants passed out the first package of peanuts the posts started.  Some from the “He-man woman-haters” branch of Freemasonry, who like to throw the word clandestine around and remind everyone they will never forget their obligations by never sitting in a lodge room with women and the usual posts that go with any picture of a person wearing an apron in a skirt.  Then the other side was defending the tweet.  How we need to get more progressive like our English Brethren I thought to myself.  However, my favorite comments are from the Brethren who have no clue and say “Well, if women want to be Masons they can join the Eastern Star” like it is the same thing. They also decide to throw a few SMIB’s into the mix for absolutely no reason and I saw things begin to slowly devolve.


As the conversation progressed, the dialogue started to become un-Masonic.  The Name-calling began.  Some actual threats were made.  I began to think this whole thing had gone too far.  Sadly, for the group and for Freemasonry, I had to ban some members from the group for their conduct.  In a way, I am not sorry because we were able to do what should have been done at their lodge’s West Gate.  If a man is going to threaten, harass, or generally treat a Masonic brother in such a manner he doesn’t deserve to be a member of The Winding Stairs group, or the Fraternity itself.  I can’t do anything about the latter, but I have the power to keep the integrity of the former.


The saddest part of this whole scene to me is all this snarling and gnashing was completely unnecessary.  If someone would do a bit of easy research beforehand instead of going off half-cocked, this wouldn’t be a thing at all.


The He-man woman haters continually say that the United Grand Lodge of England is rubbing shoulders with a clandestine organization.  That they have recognized them as Freemasons.  Allow me to let you in on a little secret: They haven’t.   The UGLE’s relationship with the two female grand lodges in the UK is like dealing with the Mafia: “It’s business, not personal.”.  The ladies help the Grand Lodge at fundraising for charity and they rent the building for their Grand Communication.  There is no Fraternal visitation between the groups.  In no way does the male Grand Lodge consider themselves to be in amity with either of the feminine organizations.  In simple terms it is like they are saying: “You ladies want to be Masons?  Cool! No skin off our noses.  Have fun!” They each do their thing, and everyone is happy. You can read more about it at these links:  http://freemasonsfordummies.blogspot.com/2018/12/ugle-and-female-freemasonry.html

https://www.ugle.org.uk/become-freemason/women-freemasons


Another one of these misunderstood topics which is sure to destroy Freemasonry as we know it is the dreaded Chamber of Reflection.  Basically, the chamber of reflection is a room with no windows, usually painted black.  Before a petitioner is allowed to progress to the Entered Apprentice degree he is placed in the room of complete darkness.  He is given a match and instructed to light the candle before him.  Once the candle is lit, he sees several objects before him on a table with a paper and a pen.  


After some time of thinking about the step he is about to take and whether he wishes to progress he answers the questions on the paper.  If the petitioner answers correctly he is allowed to continue to the degree work.  The process is designed to make him really think about if he is truly serious about gaining membership and if he is truly willing to devote himself to the lifetime of work that lays before him.  The process isn’t that uncommon.  Many Grand Lodges around the world have this as part of their ritual and even the Knights Templar here in the United States uses it in their degree work.  


The "funny" thing is that nearly every time a group of Masons suggests they add this to their lodge ritual, the eyes of several Brethren will bug out and find it hard to breathe.  Without understanding, the reasoning for the room or the fact that is used the world over a knee will automatically jerk up and the brother whose face has now reddened and is close to hyperventilating will be strictly against it, threatening to call the Grand Lodge, then Grand Master, then The Grand Architect of the Universe…Etc. or any other Grand which can keep his lodge from falling down into the rabbit hole of clandestine Freemasonry. 


I heard a tale about one Brother who while in lodge, decided to jump up and compare the Chamber as a place to give a candidate hallucinogenic drug and perform Satan worship.  (I hope that sound I hear is your eyes rolling from here). As silly as it sounds, it is such things that keep our numbers from growing and our retention numbers from free falling.   (Even sillier, I wonder how many of these Brethren whose aprons end up in a wad sat in a similar room before they became Sir Knights of the Knights Templar.  Probably the same number who amount had zero problems drinking libations with real wine during Templar ceremonies but object to having alcohol inside a Masonic temple.)


This brings me to the next item on my rant list: Demon rum.  This may shock none of you, but Grand Lodge Freemasonry began in rooms above taverns.  (I will wait for all of you to regain your composure.). In fact, throughout the eighteenth century and much of the nineteenth century, it was commonplace for beer, ale and hard liquor to be consumed before and after lodge meetings. Wine was also served at dinners and feasts.


It wasn’t until the mid-to-late nineteenth when the Temperance zealots began their assault on American society.  Churches became involved in the movement and eventually, legislation began to come before Grand Lodges asking for the complete prohibition of alcohol within the walls of Masonic temples (It has been my own theory for years this was brought on by Brothers whose wives were members of the Anti-Saloon league or other such groups.) Eventually, most of our Grand lodges became as dry as one of our business meetings.


If you broach the subject of repealing these laws to one of the stalwarts of Masonic tradition, they will almost always parrot the exact same arguments against it. I know this because I have heard these feeble arguments many times in Grand Lodge discussions. Excuses such as: “What if a Brother drinks too much and gets pulled over on the way home from Lodge?”, “What about our Brothers with issues with alcoholism?”, “This would be terrible! The public would drive by our building and see drunken Masons passed out on the sidewalk in front of our building!” These may sound silly, but they work in getting the old guard to vote no to allow us to move forward.


First of all, If we all follow the teachings of Freemasonry like we say we do we will counsel a good Brother a keep him from turning refreshment into intemperance or excess? If by chance, he were to drink a bit too much, I would hope a fellow Brother would drive his Brother home and ensure he gets inside OK. I think I may remember something of an obligation for that sort of thing.


 I don’t know about your Grand Lodge, but my mother Grand Lodge actually has rules against allowing felons, addicts, and alcoholics into the Craft.  However, the only one people seem to dwell on is the felon one. So, the “Brother with drinking issues” should be a non-starter, to begin with, assuming you follow the letter of Masonic law like you want to do on all the things you are against.  


Any the one that gets my goat (pun intended), is the idea of drunken Masons passed out in front of the building.  Tell me, how many times have you seen those same drunken Masons passed out in front of a Shrine temple? Seems to me if a Brother is going to drink himself silly in front of one Masonic edifice a Noble would do the same thing in front of another building.  


Since the United States is one of the few if only Masonic country to have a prohibition against alcohol I’m sure drunken Masons must be a worldwide phenomenon, right?   If it, is I haven’t heard about it in my nearly two decades as a Mason?  


There are so many things in the craft we tend to dismiss or decide about with a knee-jerk reaction. It is almost like we are allowing our Fraternity to die an unnecessary death because an unruly mob carrying torches wish it to be governed by superstition and legend instead of science and facts.   


I bet if we were to sit down and make a list many of Freemasonry’s hot button topics could be put to bed if both sides actually knew the facts and made a plan on the subject instead of believing something told him based on urban legend or what a Past Master believed to be true sixty years ago.  Even if they don’t agree, they can at least have an intelligent discussion and perhaps come to some agreeable solution. 


Like so many things in Freemasonry (and in life itself) a little research on a subject will help you sound more intelligent but will also provide you with the information, you need to make an informed decision or opinion. Who knows? Knowing more about the Craft besides how to hold a rod during degree word or that George Washington and John Wayne were members might even enhance your love for the Fraternity. It might even allow people who were ignorant on a subject to discover that they might actually agree on the topic if they knew the facts. 


I understand that not everyone is a Masonic nerd like I am.  They don’t spend hours researching Masonic topics and history.  They have actual lives with jobs and families. They go to the lodge a few nights a month. They study the ritual and floor work and if they have a question, they might ask a Past Master who, sadly after nearly a century without Masonic education in lodges is probably as clueless as the Brother is. I can think of no other environment or in no other group where someone can argue an opinion with zero facts and not have their argument called into question with a demand that the person produces evidence in order to be believed. Except on social media, especially when talking about those subjects forbidden for us to discuss in Lodge, but that’s a different article. 


Brethren, I know this is a lot to ask.  But if we really want to make our Fraternity relevant again, we must actually embrace the forbidden Masonic “C-word”. That word is change for those of you who have tried to repress it from your memory. The various generations of members must learn to work together and accept both sides may have some ideas that have value.  In other writings, I have laid out how what I believe a lodge can do bring this about and be successful. The only things preventing them are open minds and a willingness to try new things.  I think these things will bring actual “Harmony” to a lodge instead of appeasing one side of an argument over another.  


This all really makes me wonder.  I wonder if my brother, sister, and I would have actually gotten along and worked together instead of constantly arguing and fighting if my mom could have actually have had nice things?


~BH


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.

The Mystic Tie and Time

by Midnight Freemasons Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners

Saint Joseph #970's newest Master Mason, Tommy Justison, with the Author

One of the most beautiful things about Freemasonry is the mystic tie that unites us.  I recently found myself scrambling to find a lodge putting on a Third Degree for a candidate, Tommy Justison, who was initiated into St. Joseph #970 in 2017 as an Entered Apprentice.  Tommy was a student at the University of Illinois at the time, and due to his internships along with studies, was passed to the degree of Fellowcraft in 2019, and subsequently graduated from the University of Illinois, while the Covid pandemic took hold and stopped all Masonic work in the State of Illinois.  Tommy had recently reached out to Senior Midnight Freemason contributor, Illus. Bro. Greg Knott, about finishing his degree.  The issue was that Tommy lived in Hillsboro, Illinois, a two-hour journey from St. Joseph.  Our hope was to find a lodge somewhere halfway between both cities, but sometimes opportunity knocks and you have to answer the door. 

I found out through my good friend and fellow Area Education Officer, Jordan Kelly, that Pawnee Lodge #675 was having a Third Degree on November 18.  He gave me the name and number of their Worshipful Master, Josh Meach, whom I contacted.  After consulting with his lodge, they allowed me to bring Tommy.  I am usually not in favor of having multiple candidates at a Third Degree, however, in this case, I felt desperate times called for desperate measures.  Tommy was only going to be available to do his third degree for a short window of time, and Pawnee was only about a 40-minute drive from Tommy's home.  

I hit the road for Tommy's degree and arrived at Pawnee around 5:30 PM. I was greeted by Josh and some other brethren and it was that mystic tie that united us that made me feel welcome. Thirty-seven brothers came out last night to help make sure that two men become Master Masons.  The dinner was excellent, Fellowship was had and the degree was masterfully put on. I can't thank the brethren enough for the excellent work.  

Every time I witness the Third Degree, I can't help but end up seeing it from a new perspective. Last night's degree was no exception.  I couldn't help think about the symbolism of time that pervades our degrees.  The Twenty-Four Inch Gauge, The weeping virgin standing at the broken column with Father Time unfurling the ringlets of her hair, the three steps, the Anchor and the Ark, the hourglass, and scythe all have different lessons to teach us about time.  But of these, the one that resonated with me was that of the weeping virgin. While it is such a melancholy scene, we are taught from it that time, patience and perseverance will accomplish all things. 

Using Tommy as an example, it took him over four years from his initiation to his raising to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason. However, did it really impact his Masonic Journey?  The journey is about the destination. Tommy displayed patience and perseverance, and he finished his journey.  So I ask you, are we pushing candidates through our degrees too quickly?   Should we not slow down and allow time, patience, and perseverance to guide us?  Maybe we can judge the true character of our candidates by seeing those that continue their journey slowly and methodically.  It is my belief that the ones that want to take their time and keep showing up will be the ones that stick around.  So while many lodges will continue to be Master Mason factories with varying levels of success in retention, let us try to use the lesson taught by that weeping virgin to slow down and persevere.  Engage our candidates, bring them slowly along and teach them that it's okay to go at that pace. Let them savor the journey. That will make the destination so much sweeter. 

~DAL

WB Darin A. Lahners is our Co-Managing Editor. He is a host and producer of the "Meet, Act and Part" podcast. He is currently serving the Grand Lodge of Illinois Ancient Free and Accepted Masons as the Area Education Officer for the Eastern Masonic Area. 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 a member of the Salt Fork Shrine Club under the Ansar Shrine. You can reach him by email at darin.lahners@gmail.com. 

Mindful Masonry

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Randy Sanders


We hear a lot about the term mindfulness and being present in any situation. Living in the moment seems to be the catch phrase of the day. How might this apply to Masonry? Better yet, how can I apply these concepts myself?

We experience mindfulness in a lodge when we simply pay attention to ritual. We don’t whisper to others sitting near us, we don’t pull out the meeting agenda or write notes to ourselves for later. We simply pay attention.

This is powerful, especially if you allow yourself to immerse in the experience. How many times have we felt the ritual just feel good, or possibly raise the hair on our necks when we see it performed with intent? Mindfully participating in ritual gives us focus on the here and now. It’s a means of being present in our chairs while watching the movements and listening to the words. It applies equally to officers and members, and when visiting another lodge we quickly feel it. Or not.

If we’re fortunate enough to belong to a lodge that burns incense, then we add another sensory experience beyond sight and sound. Tactile feeling of our butts in the seats, standing when we are called upon to do so, and sitting again, all add to the experience. Yes, even the actions of standing and sitting give opportunity to be mindful and present in the moment.

Mindfulness and being present are simply that, but they can be difficult to achieve with our worldly distractions and full calendars. Lodge gives us a somewhat unique opportunity to explore many things not obvious or as easily obtained outside of the lodge. Let’s take advantage of those opportunities.

~RS

Randy and his wife Elyana live near St. Louis, Missouri, USA. Randy earned a Bachelors Degree in Chemistry with an emphasis in Biochemistry, and he works in Telecom IT management. He volunteers as a professional and personal mentor, NRA certified Chief Range Safety Officer and enjoys competitive tactical pistol, rifle, and shotgun. He has 30 plus years teaching Wing Chun Kung Fu, Chi Kung, and healing arts. Randy served as a Logistics Section Chief on two different United States federal Disaster Medical Assistance Teams over a 12 year span. Randy is a 32nd degree KCCH and Knight Templar. His Masonic bio includes past Lodge Education Officer for two symbolic lodges, Founder of the Wentzville Lodge Book Club, member of the Grand Lodge of Missouri Education Committee, Sovereign Master of the E. F. Coonrod AMD Council No. 493, Co-Librarian of the Scottish Rite Valley of St. Louis, Clerk for the Academy of Reflection through the Valley of Guthrie, and a Facilitator for the Masonic Legacy Society. Randy is a founding administrator for Refracted Light, full contributor to Midnight Freemasons, and an international presenter on esoteric topics. Randy hosts an open ongoing weekly Masonic virtual Happy Hour on Friday evenings. Randy is an accomplished home chef, a certified barbecue judge, raises Great Pyrenees dogs, and enjoys travel and philosophy.

Are You a Traveling Man?

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Ken JP Stuczynski

Seven years ago, I was appointed to the CommunicationsCommittee of the Grand Lodge of the State of New York to be webmaster for NYMasons.Org. It opened a whole new world to me. It wasn’t just traveling with then Deputy Grand Master Jeff Williamson, promoting the use of technology at a time it was desperately needed, but working with Brothers on other committees. My column in the Empire State Mason opened up many conversations I may not have had otherwise. And working with districts, along with being the webmaster for the Grand Chapter of Royal Arch, made me familiar with the state’s Masonic lay of the land.

However, there was something vital to further expand my Masonic circle and experience — the Internet. There are countless social media groups on Freemasonry, many of which are frequented by the leaders of our jurisdiction. We ask and answer questions, compare notes between our experiences, and gain awareness of a global Masonic culture in all its diversity. We may stray into politics, or even worse, argue over which way a ring should be worn. And it may seem superficial being virtual, but there are countless meetings and presentations you could not otherwise “visit” or attend. Since COVID started, the opportunities have become endless.

Such access gave me courage to write for online publications, such as TheMidnight Freemasons, and meet other Masonic authors. I discovered Masonic podcasts, and even was interviewed on one. I started reaching out to Brothers who wrote or are mentioned in articles or books — they are an email or PM away. I discovered that these intellectual and scholastic giants will meet Brotherson the level in a way that doesn’t happen outside the bonds of our Fraternity.

Not everyone is a member of Grand Lodge, but we all have access to channels of information and relationships in ways that were never conceived of by those who wrote our Constitutions. You don’t have to be a writer or scholar. You certainly don’t have to be a webmaster, although I have made connections with other webmasters who serve the Craft on a scale far greater than my own.

Too many Brothers stare at the walls of their own Lodge, never venturing outside their immediate community. There was a time when being a Traveling Man required time and expense. We went from carts to canals to railroads, highways, and air travel. But now you can instantly touch the whole world from whenever you sit. The insularity or expansion of the experience of your faith and practice is entirely a matter of choice.

I am still profoundly grateful to the Brothers who believed in me and asked me to serve Grand Lodge. But even if I were to find other Masonic work, or switch vocations tomorrow, the meaningful relationships will live on. And I’m only getting started. Who’s with me? Are you ready to be a Traveling Man in this new age?

~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”.

Sub Aspects To Our Archetypes

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Randy Sanders



One of many types of guided meditations might include a conversation with a mythical person, an archetype, or possibly a conversation with yourself.  Certain orders have their members choose an archetype for an extended conversation that might last from just a few hours to a year.  Why is that?  Are we deluding ourselves into thinking we’re actually in contact with this person or thought pattern? Or is the exercise the point?  How that particular contemplative exercise works long-term is a bit out of scope for this article, but it is worth exploring on your own.

We use these thought patterns, or archetypes, as symbols in our meditation as a means to gain deeper insight into any given situation.  Consider an issue with jurisprudence within a lodge as an example.  Who better to meditate upon for wisdom in dealing with this than wise King Solomon?  You get the picture.  Many of us have already done this, some many times, some have taken the journey with an archetype for a much longer period, considering what that archetype’s response might be to any current event or situation.  North Carolina’s Middle Chamber education program takes this to a different level, and without giving away what I know of it, let’s say I’m looking forward to booking my flights when the Middle Chamber course is offered again.

Here’s an exercise to consider when you’ve passed the initial work of having that internal conversation with these archetypes.  It really is just a means of exploring ideas beyond your own initial thoughts or normal consciousness.  I would like you to consider sub-aspects to our archetypes. 

Let’s focus on Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty for the moment, although we can use any of our Masonic Archetypal references.  Within Wisdom lies both Strength and Beauty, within Strength lies Wisdom and Beauty, within Beauty lies Wisdom and Strength.  You see here two possible sub-aspects to each archetype to expand your contemplation.

When you meditate upon Wisdom, or possibly Sophia if you get my reference, then what are the aspects that Strength and Beauty bring to Wisdom?  When we meditate and focus on asking King Solomon a question about an issue within the lodge, we focus our thoughts and become more aware of any “response” from King Solomon as the wise course of action.  We may repeat that meditation a few times to fully explore the Wisdom associated with the situation.  Afterward, we might then approach the same question, or meditation, on what response or advice HKOT or H. Abiff might give King Solomon if they were to speak of such things in council.  The same applies when asking HKOT or H. Abiff a question, and considering how the conversation might play out from the other two characters, or archetypes.

Then again, maybe not.  It’s just an exercise in your own contemplation, in your own thinking.

~RS

Bro. Randy Sanders and his wife Elyana live near St. Louis, Missouri, USA. Randy earned a Bachelors Degree in Chemistry with an emphasis in Biochemistry, and he works in Telecom IT management. He volunteers as a professional and personal mentor, NRA certified Chief Range Safety Officer, and enjoys competitive tactical pistol, rifle, and shotgun. He has 30 plus years teaching Wing Chun Kung Fu, Chi Kung, and healing arts. Randy served as a Logistics Section Chief on two different United States federal Disaster Medical Assistance Teams over a 12-year span.

Randy is a 32nd-degree KCCH and Knight Templar.  His Masonic bio includes past Lodge Education Officer for two symbolic lodges, Founder of the Wentzville Lodge Book Club, member of the Grand Lodge of Missouri Education Committee, Sovereign Master of the E. F. Coonrod AMD Council No. 493, Co-Librarian of the Scottish Rite Valley of St. Louis, Clerk for the Academy of Reflection through the Valley of Guthrie, and a Facilitator for the Masonic Legacy Society.

Randy is a founding administrator for Refracted Light, a full contributor to Midnight Freemasons, and an international presenter on esoteric topics. Randy hosts an open ongoing weekly Masonic virtual Happy Hour on Friday evenings. Randy is an accomplished home chef, a certified barbecue judge, raises Great Pyrenees dogs, and enjoys travel and philosophy. 

I Was Wrong, Conspiracies Are No Laughing Matter

by Midnight Freemasons Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners


In September and October, Freemason Lodges across Illinois started to receive anti-Masonic literature like that above.  This literature was deposited by a person or persons who not only have no idea what Freemasonry is or does, but that also decided to reuse arguments from Leo Taxil's hoax as the main basis for their Anti-Masonic rants.  Today, the arsonist that attacked several lodges in Vancouver, British Columbia was sentenced.  While he attacked them because of his drug problem and mental illness, the basis for the attack was because of his belief that the Freemasons were up to no good.  I also read today on social media about a brother who was having a conversation with some of his other brothers in front of his Masonic lodge after an event, when a truck stopped and a gentleman got out and started calling them, "Baby-eating satanists." 

The last example has realized my fear that some of the conspiracies put forth by Q-Anon, which has linked Freemasons and/or the Illuminati as being part of the cabal made up of satan-worshiping pedophile US politicians and entertainers which they believe wanted to remove and keep former President Trump from rooting them out, is at the heart of the rise of anti-masonic rhetoric.


It's gotten so bad that there are people claiming that the Bible that President Biden took his oath on is a "Freemasonic Bible", further giving credence to their beliefs.  Read about it here.

We only need to look back in our recent history to see what popular Anti-Masonic sentiment did to our craft.  This culminated with the formation of a political party that sent members of it to Congress in the 1830sIs it only a matter of time before we face similar forces?

When I raised my concerns about this disturbing trend on other social media platforms, most of the reaction I have received is that I'm somehow legitimizing the conspiracies by addressing them.  Unfortunately, I do not think that we can afford to bury our collective heads in the sand, and to believe that the people that believe these conspiracies are going to disappear--they're growing in number.  Recent polls have shown that 15-20% of Americans agree with Q-Anon's beliefs, while others have shown that it's more like 4-5%. Any percentage over 0% is too much.

Back in the simpler days of September 2017, I wrote a satirical piece for this very blog about Conspiracy Theories and Freemasonry.   You can find the article here

I was wrong.

At the end of the article, I stated that I didn't care what someone believed as long as they were a brother. Unfortunately, I need to say that this is no longer the case.  I do not care what your religious beliefs or political affiliations are as long as they are not ones that hold that Freemasonry is evil, immoral, or indecent. If you subscribe to anti-Masonic conspiratorial beliefs, then we are in opposition.  Yes, I understand that I also just wrote an article about Being Curious and not Judgmental,  however,  I cannot in good conscience do that when the person on the other side of the argument has already judged the institution of Freemasonry as being something that it is not and will never be.

I want to be clear because I don't want to get accused of taking sides politically for having specifically called out Q-Anon.  This isn't a political issue.  Any group that holds anti-Masonic conspiratorial beliefs regardless of their political leaning is a direct threat to the institution of Freemasonry. Also--it's just plain rubbish.

Our new Grandmaster in Illinois, MWB Michael Jackson, made a very important point to the Freemasons gathered at our Annual Communication in October.  His point was that a Masonic Lodge is like the human body.  If it is not active, it will atrophy and will most likely die.  However, if it is active and healthy, then it has a better chance of survival.  His words ring true as there is only one way to combat conspiracies, and it's something that my mother lodge has been struggling with--hell, many lodges are struggling with this. The only way to combat conspiracies is to show that they are not true by being transparent and active in your community.  

This means opening your lodge doors by having open houses and inviting your community in.  Yes, we need to start talking about what Freemasons are and what we do in public forums. Not only this, but we also need to start participating in community events and actively promoting our charitable efforts in the media (social and otherwise) if we are not already doing so.          

While we might not convince someone that is firmly entrenched in their conspiratorial beliefs about Freemasonry, we can at least try to make sure that those same beliefs don't spread like cancer in our communities by showing that we are the opposite of what the conspiracies say we are.  We will not be giving away our secrets by doing so.  Who knows, maybe we might gain some new members this way as well.  We just need to make sure that we are doing our due diligence and guarding the West Gate.

~DAL

WB Darin A. Lahners is our Co-Managing Editor. He is a host and producer of the "Meet, Act and Part" podcast. He is currently serving the Grand Lodge of Illinois Ancient Free and Accepted Masons as the Area Education Officer for the Eastern Masonic Area. 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 a member of the Salt Fork Shrine Club under the Ansar Shrine. You can reach him by email at darin.lahners@gmail.com. 

How We Use the "Tools" of Freemasonry

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
WB Joe Stewart


Growing up my grandfather owned a construction company. I always saw him as a jack-of-all-trades and he owned the tools to go with (I spent summers going to jobs with him to be the gopher and help clean up).

My Dad too was always a fixer and builder. In his workshop, there were all types of tools, a lathe, a band saw, a table saw, and multiple toolboxes.  Now I have been handed down tools from both of these men, but even though I now have the tools, I cannot build a house!

We are told that everyone should reference their sacred book and be given the tools of the craft with the speculative function of each tool throughout the degrees.

Ritual and the working tools are to be the answers to all the mysteries. It is up to each brother to research how to use them to make himself better and to grow.

The problem with tools is they can be used in more than one way.  While the gavel can be used to knock off the edges and make the stones fit together, it can also be used to destroy or demolish. The trowel is not only used to smooth or spread, but also has a pointed tip to pick out the old mortar in tuckpointing. These are not improper uses for these tools.

How many times in life have you heard “measure twice cut once”? What if the gauge is in centimeters, not inches?

What if you spend all day using the plumb and never take time to check if things are square? (Have you seen some of the smaller lodge buildings, did they use a square??)

Tools in the wrong hands or not used as intended can do damage.

We give the apprentices, fellowcrafts, and master masons tools and then expect the result to be a temple. We tend to overlook the fact that if we work alone, we will end up with something more like a shed than a temple.

We should give every mason the tools but WE need to also help them learn how to use them.

We are charged to become a perfect ashlar, though it is only perfection based on how it joins the next stone. If we solely focus inward, are we becoming the best possible version of ourselves?

Let us be mindful of our Masonic responsibilities that can be summed up in one word, "practice." This can be only accomplished by practicing solo, then coming together.

Buildings are not made of one stone but rather many put together.

We are living stones needing to work as a group to build the future together.

**one solo stone in a field is not a monument; it is a tripping hazard.



WBro Joseph Stewart 32° is Past Master of Napthali Lodge #25 and Wentzville Lodge #46, AF&AM, Grand Lodge of Missouri.  Joe is very active in Masonic Rainbow and DeMolay youth organizations, leading the revitalization of the Daniel Boone DeMolay Chapter and a long-time member of the Wentzville Rainbow Advisory Board.  Joe is active in the Valley of St. Louis AASR as an officer in both the Knights of St. Andrew and the Kadosh line and works with the candidate and library committees. Joe lives in the greater St. Louis area.  When not working as a senior IT and infrastructure analyst, Joe, his wife, and four children enjoy the reenactment of Scottish life of the 1500s.

Attitude of Champions

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Randy Sanders


I’ve mentioned previously I was a part of a championship high school marching band: The Pride of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.  Currently, the Pride of Broken Arrow band is the most awarded marching band in the nation and soon on their way to the Bands of America Grand Nationals at the time of this writing.  I watched the band sweep all categories in the recent super-regional competition and then again at the state competition this past weekend.  

The kids are exhausted, and they are headed into a short, well-deserved break before again adding and tweaking their show for national competition.  I see some parallels we as Masons do that also apply toward simple everyday activities.  Yes, we have the same old cliché stories of working hard, practicing, keeping focused, teamwork, and leadership.  Yet, that same lesson applies to every other band on the competition field.  What sets that Broken Arrow band apart from the rest?

We as Masons already know the secret to balancing these energies.  When Masons work hard, we play just as hard, and we divide our time for rest.  We focus by keeping our eye on the prize, not letting petty arguments get in the way of doing the Great Work.  Masons embody teamwork as a lesson of every opening and closing of the lodge, and leadership lessons are given with every sentence, every nuance, of that same opening and closing.

Randy, um, you left out practice?  Recently, a new DDGM in one of my districts told me, paraphrased, when we practice, we shouldn’t practice in order to get it right, we should practice so that we can never get it wrong.  How powerful is that statement?  How deep does that resonate within us?  Practice so that we can never get it wrong.  RWB Ryan Branson was directly on point.

Another interesting piece to the band that parallels Masonry is often overlooked:  Always tweak the show.  Always add a bit, or change how something is done.  Change!  Change?  Isn’t change an evil word in Freemasonry?  Brothers, that argument you should take up with your Grand Lodge Ritual Committee.  What I mean by tweak and change is to bring something extra.  Put effort into something you hadn’t previously done for your lodge.  I volunteered for the Audit Committee of my lodge this year.  I had never done so before, and it was something new for me to learn.  I volunteered for the first shift at a recent breakfast event.  This I had done many times before, but this time I wanted to ensure I was first there to open the lodge and kitchen.  I wasn’t the champion here, as the Worshipful Master beat me to the lodge by just a few minutes.  Still, the attitude of keeping it fresh by constantly pushing previous limits, learning, and simply being there?  That’s the important stretch.  Just like learning something new, make sure you take time now, and in the future, to mentor new Masons.  Let them make their mistakes, and gently coach them as to alternatives and improvements.  Let them make their own mistakes!  It is worth repeating that we learn from mistakes as well as giving us the opportunity to coach and mentor tenderly.  Coaching and mentoring is not sitting on the sidelines complaining “it was different” at some point in the past.

That stretching of our own brotherly duties, skills, and practice within the lodge and without?  That, my Brothers, embodies the attitude of champions.  The constant tweaking of our own skills, the gentle course correction we all need to contemplate, the focus on our internal Great Work that cements the Mystical Tie… That balance in how we approach life coupled with the Great Work gives us something to contemplate so that we embody that same champion in every action and internal competition.

~RS

Bro. Randy Sanders and his wife Elyana live near St. Louis, Missouri, USA. Randy earned a Bachelors Degree in Chemistry with an emphasis in Biochemistry, and he works in Telecom IT management. He volunteers as a professional and personal mentor, NRA certified Chief Range Safety Officer, and enjoys competitive tactical pistol, rifle, and shotgun. He has 30 plus years teaching Wing Chun Kung Fu, Chi Kung, and healing arts. Randy served as a Logistics Section Chief on two different United States federal Disaster Medical Assistance Teams over a 12-year span.

Randy is a 32nd-degree KCCH and Knight Templar.  His Masonic bio includes past Lodge Education Officer for two symbolic lodges, Founder of the Wentzville Lodge Book Club, member of the Grand Lodge of Missouri Education Committee, Sovereign Master of the E. F. Coonrod AMD Council No. 493, Co-Librarian of the Scottish Rite Valley of St. Louis, Clerk for the Academy of Reflection through the Valley of Guthrie, and a Facilitator for the Masonic Legacy Society.

Randy is a founding administrator for Refracted Light, a full contributor to Midnight Freemasons, and an international presenter on esoteric topics. Randy hosts an open ongoing weekly Masonic virtual Happy Hour on Friday evenings. Randy is an accomplished home chef, a certified barbecue judge, raises Great Pyrenees dogs, and enjoys travel and philosophy.

This Is Not An Education Piece

by Midnight Freemason Emeritus
Adam Thayer, PM


My favorite piece of art… is that weird? Do normal people have favorite pieces of art? I hear about my friends talking about favorite movies, favorite songs, and even occasionally someone will mention a favorite book, but nobody seems to talk about art.

My favorite piece of art is an oil on canvas painted by the Belgian surrealist Rene Magritte. After working as a commercial artist for a number of years, he painted a picture of a large wooden pipe, and underneath wrote “Ceci n’est pas une pipe”, or literally “This is not a pipe”. To tie it all together, he titled the painting The Treachery Of Images, to remind us of the dangers that images can pose.

Years later, when he was questioned about the image, he replied firmly that what he wrote was correct; it was not a pipe, it was a representation of a pipe. You couldn’t put tobacco into it, you couldn’t light it, because it was only an image of a pipe. In fact, he went on to say “if I had written on my picture ‘This is a pipe’ I’d have been lying!”

As a writer, it reminds me of Alfred Korzybski stating “The map is not the territory - the word is not the thing”. It’s a constant reminder that words, no matter how beautifully written, are still just representations of the actual thing. I could spend paragraphs detailing Magritte’s beautiful pipe – which is, I remind you, not a pipe – the fantastic shine of the bowl and stem, the glow of it against the golden background, the thin, almost fragile lettering underneath, and yet that description is still a pale comparison to seeing the actual picture in person.

I imagine many of us feel that way about our degrees; I can tell you about the nerves I experienced leading up to it, the scent of the room, the feeling when I was first brought to light… but none of this can live up to having been there, in that room, in my skin. Yet, in the act of describing it, I remember that night ten years ago, as if I was still there.

Neither can I put the sound of a brother’s voice in your head the way I hear it, clear as day, whenever I get up to give what I still consider to be “his” lecture. The best I can give is a representation of it, kind, loving, yet firm in his demand that I never let that lecture be read from the book or be performed without feeling.

Our symbols are like that too; while you may have some of the symbols as physical representations (doesn’t every lodge have a square and compass?), they are still just that – representations. The compass in our lodges, for instance, is generally not a compass one could actually use to circumscribe a true circle. What’s more, I’ve yet to find a lodge with an actual beehive, although I do think selling Masonic Honey sounds much more interesting than flipping pancakes.

The Treachery Of Images is a fantastic reminder of the place our symbols belong in Masonry – as mental placeholders for complex teachings and morality instruction. The symbols themselves only contain the meanings we put into them, and as such should not be deified in and of themselves.

Of course, the phrase “The word is not the thing” should bring a special meaning to the Master Mason, which I will point out for those who are inclined to ponder without expounding the substitution principle to the uninitiated.

So Adam, I hear you thinking, what’s your point? Has all of this been a rambling opportunity for you to have an excuse to write about your favorite piece of art? Yes, obviously. Perhaps I should have titled this “The Treachery Of Education” and include the disclaimer “Ce n’est pas une conference educative”.

Perhaps I could trick you into reading paragraph upon paragraph, expecting to find some hidden nugget of wisdom that I subtly snuck in but that you are starting to doubt is in there. Perhaps I already have.

Perhaps the point of all Masonic Education really shouldn’t be to teach necessarily, but to encourage you to think and discover meaning for yourself. Then again, to paraphrase Magritte, this is not a Masonic Education piece. Unless, of course, it was.

~Adam Thayer