- A limited number of members (generally no more than 50)
- Excellence in ritual degree work, done by the Lodge, without relying on others for help
- A Masonic education program for the advancement of candidates, including the requirement of original research papers
- A festive board (dinner) at a local restaurant following meetings
- A dignified dress code
- Required attendance, within reason
- Appropriately priced dues so that the Lodge may be self-sufficient"
His epitaph reads, "A very interesting fella."
His first name is not even on his tombstone. Born in 1934, Elvis Otha Wingo was a young man when another Elvis took the country by storm. I never asked Otha if that was why he preferred to use his middle name but it might have been. After all, back then there was only one Elvis and, make no mistake, there was also only one Otha.
Shortly after being appointed editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine I learned I had an assistant editor who had held the position for years, never wanting to move into the editor's chair. It was, the Grand Secretary told me, a Brother named Dr. E. Otha Wingo. A couple weeks later I went to our Grand Lodge communication and found him in the cavernous hall where we hold the plenary session. We introduced ourselves and had a lengthy conversation about the magazine, Freemasonry, and a few other things. I learned he had earned his Ph.D. at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and for many years had been a professor of ancient Greek, Latin, and Mythology at Southeast Missouri State University. As the hall began to fill for our meeting, Otha excused himself from our conversation to attend to another duty. Already impressed by this obviously brilliant Brother, I was stunned when he walked over to a piano, sat down, and began playing. He had neglected to tell me he was an accomplished pianist and served as the musician for our Grand Sessions.
"This man," I thought, "is my assistant editor. I should be his assistant instead."
As assistant editor, RWB Wingo only had one job. For years, even before I became a member, he wrote a column, "To Improve Myself in Freemasonry," which always appeared on the back cover of the magazine. The "back page column," as it was known, and Otha himself were both icons to our Grand Lodge members.
In all the years I knew him, I came to realize our first conversation didn't tell half the story.
Otha grew up in Boonville, Mississippi, The son of Elijah and Edna Goodin Wingo. His parents were sharecroppers, who could barely scratch out a living during the depression years of his youth. He developed an early interest in playing the piano. His family could not afford such an expensive instrument, so he took a long strip of cardboard and drew the keys on it, using that to learn to play.
At the age of 12, he taught an adult Bible class at Booneville Baptist Church and, four years later at just 16, the child genius was admitted to college, where he studied classical languages. In 1963, his 198-page doctoral thesis. "Latin Punctuation in the Classical Age," proved for the first time that the Romans used punctuation in the written Latin language.
Otha was initiated September 12, 1966 and spent the bulk of his Masonic life as a member of Harold O. Grauel Lodge 672, where he served as Master in 1973. On the Charter Night of that Lodge, Dr. Wingo not only gave a dissertation on the history of the Lodge's formation but also, as the official Lodge prognosticator, told its fortune.
His extensive Masonic resume includes serving on many Grand Lodge committees and a variety of positions. He was District Deputy Grand Lecturer from 1998-2010. In 2007, he was honored by being elected just the 12th Fellow of the Missouri Lodge of Research, and in 2011 received the coveted Truman Medal from the Grand Lodge of Missouri.
The introspective Brother Wingo was president of Huna Research, a society promoting, in its words, a practical way of life containing elements of philosophy, science, and religion. He succeeded the group's founder Max Freedom and served in that position for 40 years.
Working as a missionary in the 1950s, Otha hitchhiked across Jamaica. He was a personal friend of Mahalia Jackson and, as if his life wasn't busy enough, he was a certified private investigator.
The articles RWB Wingo wrote for the magazine were thoughtful, deep, serious, and even sometimes humorous. They all reflected his thorough knowledge of Freemasonry, its principles, and history. As DDGL he liked to include articles on memory aids to assist Brothers in learning the ritual. He never hesitated to drop in information stemming from his deep knowledge of classical languages and mythology. He also confused us from time to time with titles like "The Anacreontic Ode," and "Simillimum."
I once had the temerity to reject one of Otha's articles. Well… sort of. In 2012, he submitted a column entitled "Traditional Observance." TO Lodges, as they are sometimes called, are much more formal than many of our own Lodges. They follow traditional Masonic practices and the original goals of Freemasonry. They usually include Masonic education and discussion in their gatherings. Members almost always dress in tuxedos, focus on the quality of performing the ritual, and usually observe a festive board at each meeting. Sometimes members' attendance, within reason, is required. Otha's article objectively described the origins and practices of TO Lodges.
Like all of Brother Wingo's articles, "Traditional Observance" was interesting, perceptive, and educational. It was certainly worthy of publication. However, the Grand Lodge of Missouri bylaws prohibits TO Lodges. Not just that, some influential members in Missouri are adamantly opposed to them claiming, among other issues, they are elitist. I called Otha and after discussing the issue, we decided it would be better not to publish it. Within a couple of days, the prolific RWB Wingo sent me a replacement article.
In 2015, after a decade as editor of the Missouri Freemason, and a decade of working with Otha, I moved on to other projects. When the first edition of the magazine came out under a new editor, I picked it up out of the mail and immediately turned to the back cover to read Otha's column. Something struck me as strange. The format was different. The title of the article was "The Back Page Legend." Beneath that were the words, "RWB Dr. E. Otha Wingo, PDDGL, FMLR, 1934-2015." Stunned, I gradually realized I was reading Otha's obituary. I had had no reason to communicate with him since our work on the previous issue, and so the back page of the magazine, the space Otha had owned for years, is where I learned of his passing. Somewhat ironically, it turned out my last edition of the magazine was also his. In losing Brother Wingo, Freemasonry had lost a great talent.
A decorated Freemason, known to be a loving family man, an author, an accomplished musician, a scholar, a missionary, Sunday school teacher, and even a private investigator – Dr. Elvis Otha Wingo was, indeed, an interesting "fella."
Note: The never before published "Traditional Observance," by RWB E. Otha Wingo, will appear in the next edition of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He will be featured in the next episode of the Whence Came You Podcast.
St. John supposedly lived in Galilee and was the brother of St. James. They were considered “hired men” which most likely means they were craftsmen doing a variety of work and odd jobs. The brothers were said to have lived in poverty and renounced material possessions. This is in part due to the fact that both brothers were followers of John the Baptist when he preached in the wilderness of Jordan. Both were baptized and initiated into the Baptist’s religious order which was most likely connected to the sect known as the Essenes. John and James were both on the banks of the river Jordan and witnessed the baptism and initiation of Christ. Which means they beheld the descending of the Holy Shekinah, or Holy Spirit in the form of a dove when the Baptist exclaimed with prophetic perception, "Behold the Lamb of God!"
He is referred to as, "disciple whom Jesus loved.” John was the one whom Mary Magdalene went to with news of the Resurrection. And when John and Peter were on the Sea of Galilee they witnessed the Vision of the Resurrected Christ. He appeared as an astral figure on the shore in the first light of morning. Peter could not recognize him but John could. Possibly signifying that John had a greater understanding of the spiritual perception over the physical senses, or material world. St. John witnessed the Ascension and received the spiritual fire of the Holy Spirit at the Pentacost. This indicated that St. John was baptized both by fire and water.
St. John’s connection to the craft is vague and shrouded in mystery. St. John the Baptist was the patron saint of the builders’ guilds and St. John the Evangelist was not adopted into the craft until after the sixteenth century. This would place the adoption of the Evangelist around the time of the shift from operative Masonry into the speculative craft. According to Masonic historian Kenneth Mckenzie “although it has been urged that the dedication to these saints did not arise out of the circumstances to the doctrine of Christianity… that the custom of dedicating lodges to these saints arose from astrological reasons.” (Mckennzie, Royal Masonic Cyclopedia).
These astrological reasons are to correlate the symbolism of the St. Johns for the summer and Winter Solstice. The Sun enters Cancer about the 21st day of June, which is correlated to the 24th and dedicated as a feast day to St. John the Baptist. In the winter, the Sun reaches Capricorn on the 23rd of December, which is correlated to the 27th of December and dedicated to St. John the Evangelist as a feast day. This placed the two feast days of the St. John’s when the sun is lowest and highest peaks of its yearly cycle showing both the astrological meridian height of the sun in the south and the lowest point of darkness in the north, the shortest and longest days of the year.
Within the speculative craft the Saints John are called the parallels of Masonry and between them we see the point within a circle. From the oldest times, the point within a circle was a symbol of the sun and has been adopted in various cultures as such. Mackey states “The two days are the limits of its circle, therefore the circle is shone set between the lines. The Point Within the Circle represents the year, a year of work, a year out of a man's life; at least it does if the history of its use is a true guide to its symbolic meaning.” (Mackey, Masonic Encyclopedia)
It we look at the St. John the Evangelist symbolically within the context of the Masonic journey, John is every individual initiate. John is initiated by John the Baptist into the mysteries and purified, similarly how the entered apprentice is given a white apron to represent a new sense of purity. John travels with his Master and it indoctrinated in the parables of truth, similar to the Fellowcraft traveling the different compartments of the Temple being indoctrinated with the spiral staircase leading to truth, Similar to the Master Mason John is witness to the death and resurrection of his master.
Fitting in the mythos of the Masonic lost word John makes reference to Christ as “the Word.” With the death and resurrection of the Christ the true word of the gnosis is lost. But the word is found again within his own soul through the mystery of the spiritual fire of the Pentecost. The lost word is the individual soul of the initiate and the connection to the redemptive energy of the Christos. Elementally the Johns are the parallels that the Baptist represents the mystery of water and the natural or material world, the Evangelist representing the mystery of fire and the supernatural or spiritual world. With this interpretation the Master Mason dwells in the center balanced between his physical and spiritual, aware of his inner Christos in the spirit but bound to his obligation to his fellow man in the physical.
It is also important to note that the book of Revelation shows the revelation of a new name of God identified as Alpha Omega. I only mention this because there are old rituals, and some modern cryptic rites, that see the restored lost word being Iota Alpha Omega, IAO. Which correlates to the famous verse from Revelation 22 “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Blessed are those who wash their robes. They will be permitted to enter through the gates of the city and eat the fruit from the tree of life.” (St. James Bible) In certain neo-Rosicrucian groups IAO is considered to represent the process of life, death, and resurrection.
James E Frey 32° classifies himself as a gentleman of the old world, which means he is known to stand in the great forests reciting poetry to fair-haired damsels while wrestling bears for sport. He is a District Education Officer for the Grand Lodge of Illinois, a Past Sovereign Prince of the of Danville AASR, member of the Oak Lawn York Rite, Medinah Shriners, Royal Order of Scotland, Quram Council Allied Masonic Degrees and initiate of the Golden Dawn Collegium Spiritu Sancti. He is also a guest lecturer on Occultism and Esoteric studies in Masonry for the R.E.B.I.S Research Society.
by Senior Midnight Freemason Contributor
Gregory J. Knott 33°
On December 30, 2021, Masonic social media announced the passing of RWB Thomas W. Jackson. What quickly followed was a large number of tributes and memories that brothers had reflecting upon the life and impact of RWB Jackson.
If you are not familiar with RWB Jackson, he was the past Grand Secretary of the Right Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Pennsylvania. He had also served as the first Executive Secretary of the World Conference of Regular Masonic Grand Lodges from 1998 to 2014. He held numerous Masonic honors from around the world including as one of the Founding Fellows of The Masonic Society.
I met RWB Jackson a couple of times at Masonic Week. When his book “Masonic Perspectives - The Thoughts of a Grand Secretary” was published, he was selling it at a table at Masonic Week. I bought the book and asked him to autograph it for me.
As I was flipping through the book, I noticed that he had written a couple articles on the topic of Scouting. We had a conversation about the similarities between Scouting and Freemasonry. RWB Jackson, like myself, is an Eagle Scout and has been involved in Scouting as both youth and adult leaders. It was a fascinating conversation.
In his book, he wrote about speaking at an Eagle Court of Honor offering some thoughts on the influence, and said:
“We cannot take a step in our lives without the influence of others. We will be nothing more at any time than a reflection of the influence of others along with our modifications. The poet Markham expressed it well when he wrote: ‘There is a destiny that makes us brothers. None goes his way alone. All that we send into the lives of others comes back into our own.’ So my brother Eagles, will you go beyond the ordinary? It is possible but it is up to you. Accept what scouting has to offer. Learn! Learn the meaning of the brotherhood of man, and give to others in equal measure what others have given to you. Maybe, then just maybe, you may rise above the ordinary.”
Though RWB Jackson was speaking to young Eagle Scouts, his words are equally applicable to Freemasonry. We are influenced by others and thereby we also influence others ourselves. As Freemasons, we have a tremendous opportunity to use this ability to influence others to help improve our individual communities having a positive impact upon the lives of others.
What will the legacy of RWB Jackson be? His challenge to raise the bar of Freemasonry will endure for the decades to come. I can’t think of a better way to honor the memory of RWB Jackson than by going out into your community having a positive influence on others, exerting kindness to your brothers, and helping your lodge become the very best it can be to impact all of mankind.
Rest in peace Brother.
Gregory J. Knott, 33° is a founding member and Senior Contributor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He is a Past Master of St. Joseph Lodge No. 970 in St. Joseph (IL) and a plural member of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL) and Naval Lodge No. 4 in Washington, DC. He’s a member of the Scottish Rite, the York Rite, Eastern Star and is the Charter Secretary of the Illini High Twelve Club No. 768 in Champaign-Urbana. He is also a member of ANSAR Shrine (IL) and the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees. Greg serves on the Board of Directors of The Masonic Society and is a member of the Scottish Rite Research Society and The Philathes Society. He is a charter member of a new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter U.D., and serves as its Secretary. Greg is very involved in Boy Scouts—an Eagle Scout himself, he is a member of the National Association of Masonic Scouters.