Traditional Observance

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Dr. E. Otha Wingo, PDDGL, FMLR

Freemasons from time immemorial have encouraged individual members to fulfill the injunction, "To Improve Myself in Freemasonry," by forming study clubs and research Lodges, Grand Lodge committees on Masonic education, publishing pamphlets, articles, and books, exploring visual aids from stereopticons to digitized computer programs.  The Grand Lodge Committee on Masonic Education, of which I was a member for more than ten years, consistently strives to provide resources for Lodges to fulfill this mission.

At the same time there have been tendencies to reduce requirements and expectations for candidates and shorten traditional degree programs to "save time" and make it easier for new members to "become" Freemasons. The result has been in too many cases to ignore the new member, who loses interest quickly unless his natural inclination is to study his new organization's history and teaching on his own.

MW Brother Dwight L. Smith of Indiana summarized his famous treatise on solutions to perennial problems of Lodge membership and participation ("Whither Are We Traveling? – 1962), thus: "6. And then, humbly begging pardon of the Sacred Cows, if Plans and Programs and Systems there must be, there is only one which has stood the test of time. It is that which is carried on within the framework of the Lodge, inside its four walls, by its authority, under its control and responsible to it. Nothing should be left to the whim or fancy of individuals who may be ill-prepared, inaccurate, or irresponsible. Textbooks, manuals, short courses, schools, forums – these should not operate as substitutes for the work of a Lodge. We can only hope that such tools may assist and inspire. But the stones must be hewn and squared in the quarries where they are raised…. Looking at the overall picture of American Masonry candidly and thoughtfully, it seems to me the greatest single need of our Craft today is a membership with a better understanding of what our Fraternity is and especially of what it is not."

In recent years I have noticed an increasing interest in restoring some of those traditional practices—not because they are ancient or traditional, but because they more thoroughly fulfill the original goals of Freemasonry. Some of these movements have been started outside the jurisdiction of established Grand Lodges and most have failed. Working within established Grand Lodge jurisdictions, Traditional Observance Lodges for the past ten years have been attracting the attention of dedicated Masonic students throughout the country. "Traditional" in the label Traditional Observance focuses on initiatic tradition, emphasizing quality in the work and quality in its members. It is not intended to present an alternative ritual, for these Lodges are chartered under the Grand Lodges. Another important treatise on excellence in Freemasonry is WB Andrew Hammer, PM of Alexandria –Washington Lodge #22, who prefers the label "Observance" only: "What we are seeking, and what we can claim, is the observance of the intent of our historical founders, and the restoration of Lodges to that intended observance….Absent an interest in observance, that is, in reaching for the light through our study and actions, Lodges risk ceasing to be in any way Masonic" (Hammer, Observing the Craft).

In its Fall 2009 issue (Vol. 62.4) The Philalethes Society announced a new format and an extended mission by electing Shawn Eyer as the editor of Philalethes and Erastus Allen as treasurer. MWB Terry Tilton, president of the Society and Past Grand Master of Minnesota, stated (p. 76): "Each brings a particular skill set to our Society which will surely advance our mission and outreach….Both of them, as members of Lodges that are dedicated to traditional observance, represent a growing element of Masonry, promoting a strong and integral emphasis on Masonic education." Brother Eyer is a member of Academia Lodge #847, Oakland, California and Brother Allen is a member of Lodge Ad Lucem #812, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Philalethes: The Journal of Masonic Research & Letters, founded October 1, 1928,  is "the oldest independent Masonic research society in North America."

In comparison, Quatuor Coronati Lodge #2076, "The Premier Lodge of Masonic Research," was chartered November 28, 1884, by the United Grand Lodge of England. The annual volume. Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, is #125 for 2012. The Missouri Lodge of Research was chartered in May of 1941, while Harry S Truman, then U.S. Senator from Missouri, was Grand Master. Truman was the 33rd President of the United States from April 12, 1945, to 1953. An annual volume has been published every year since 1942.

I have been a member of these three research Lodges since 1966, adding substantially to my personal Masonic library. Throughout these years, occasional references were made to Traditional Observance, mostly as used by Lodges in Europe.  If asked about this tradition, I might reply, "What I don't know about Traditional Observance would fill a book." Actually, such a book has been written: Cliff Porter, A Traditional Observance Lodge: One Mason's Journey to Fulfillment (Starr Publishing, LLC, 2013). WB Porter is a Founding Member of Enlightenment Lodge #198 in Colorado Springs, Colorado (2008) and served as its Master for the first two years. He is also an associate member of Lodge of Living Stones 4957 in Leeds, England, and an honorary member of Esoterika #316 in Seattle, Washington. He is Chairman of Education for the Grand Lodge of Colorado and has twice by invitation addressed the Conference of Grand Masters of North America. This book would profit considerably from careful proofreading and copy editing but contains much useful and thought-provoking information.

Enlightenment Lodge is different. The Lodge has higher than 100% attendance and men wait periods of longer than a year to get initiated. It has never lost a single Entered Apprentice, no member has been dropped for not paying dues. Men arrive on Lodge days at 8:00 a.m. and are often reluctantly leaving for home near midnight or 2:00 a.m. Their dues are high by American standards, the background check is rigorous, and the initiations are solemn and serious. Every Lodge meeting is treated as an event and celebrated as such. Dinner is treated as a feast with all its positive connotations. Freemasonry is celebrated in every aspect of the Lodge. From the artwork, the furnishings, the setup, and the atmosphere; all aspects of the Lodge meeting are intentional and meant to create an experience. Enlightenment Lodge is a Traditional Observance Lodge. Like all labels, the Traditional Observance label has caused fear and fright, anger and frustration, confusion, and edicts. It has also helped to define the practices that make the author's Lodge one of the most successful Lodges in the United States by any standard. Worshipful Brother Porter's book does not claim to solve all problems of Lodges losing membership or not having enough present to open Lodge. Nor does it claim to offer the only solution or even the best one. The author explains the Traditional Observance model and encourages ideas in the area of increasing the Lodge experience and emphasizing the quality of experience for its members. He gives a mixture of personal experiences, practical advice, and real-life examples for creating a Traditional Observance Lodge or increasing your Lodge's fulfillment.

Keep in mind that these Lodges are regularly chartered by official Grand Lodges in their state. Christopher Hodapp (Freemasons for Dummies, 2005, p. 272) makes this observation: "A new wave of interest has grown steadily in the United States over what is sometimes called the Traditional Observance Lodge or European Concept Lodge. U.S. Lodges are frequently bogged down by long business meetings, little Masonic education, and, worst of all, lousy food. The European Concept Lodge includes
  • 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"
Outside of Europe, this formula was pioneered by Lodge Epicurean #906 in Australia, and it has started to gain popularity in the United States. The Masonic Restoration Foundation (  has been formed to share these ideas with interested Masons.

While U.S. Grand Lodges have seen a decline in membership, Grand Lodges in non-English-speaking countries have witnessed a strong increase in new members. They stress the more intellectual aspects of Freemasonry, take much more time between degrees, and don't have such a fascination with appendant bodies outside the Lodge. The Traditional Observance and European Concept Lodges are attempting to emulate their success.

The current list of Traditional Observance Lodges shows 51 in the U.S. and 3 in Canada. This includes newly chartered Lodges and Lodges which have adopted the Traditional Observance format. For example, Saint Paul Lodge Number Three, in Saint Paul, Minnesota, was chartered in 1849 by the Grand Lodge of Ohio (before the Grand Lodge of Minnesota was established in 1853). It became a Traditional Observance Lodge in 2001. Likewise, Saint John's Lodge #1 in New York was constituted in 1757 and adopted the Traditional Observance format in 2007. Enlightenment Lodge #198, Manitou Springs, Colorado, was chartered in January 2008 by the Grand Lodge of Colorado. Cliff Porter was its first Master and a leading proponent of Traditional Observance.

Traditional Observance Lodges follow the established ritual of their Grand Lodge, with some ceremonial additions and adjustments, only insofar as they may be allowed by their Grand Lodge. Traditional Observance Lodges begin with the North American Masonic Lodge model and enrich it with traditional initiatic elements practiced in Continental European and Latin American Freemasonry.

Traditional Observance Masonry is not a Masonic rite, but rather a philosophical approach to the way Freemasonry is practiced. In many ways, Traditional Observance Masonry is a response to some of the negative trends experienced by North American Freemasonry in recent years, aimed at reversing those trends and restoring the strength and dignity of the American Craft.

[Sources: Cliff Porter, A Traditional Observance Lodge: One Mason's Journey to Fulfillment (Starr Publishing, LLC, 2013; Hodapp, op. cit.;;; 

Andrew Hammer, Observing the Craft: The Pursuit of Excellence in Masonic Labour and Observance (2010)]  

Dr. E. Otha Wingo (1934-2015) was a member of Harold O. Grauel Lodge 672 in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, where he served as Master in 1973. He served as District Deputy Grand Lecturer for a decade, was a Fellow of the Missouri Lodge of Research and in 2011, received the coveted Truman Medal from the Grand Lodge of Missouri. He received a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and for many years was a professor of ancient Greek, Latin, and Mythology at Southeast Missouri State University. Right Worshipful Brother Wingo was an accomplished pianist who for many years provided the music for Grand Lodge sessions. Outside of Freemasonry, Dr. Wingo was president of the esoteric Huna Society for 40 years and was also a certified private investigator. He is buried in Boonville, Mississippi, where his tombstone, rightfully so, reads, "A very interesting fella."

The Other Elvis

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

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.


Bro. Steve Harrison, 33°  is Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri. He is also a Fellow and Past Master of the Missouri Lodge of Research. Among his other Masonic memberships is the St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite bodies, and Moila Shrine. He is also a member and Past Dean of the DeMolay Legion of Honor. Brother Harrison is a regular contributor to the Midnight Freemasons blog as well as several other Masonic publications. Brother Steve was Editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine for a decade and is a regular contributor to the Whence Came You podcast. Born in Indiana, he has a Master's Degree from Indiana University and is retired from a 35-year career in information technology. Steve and his wife Carolyn reside in northwest Missouri. He is the author of dozens of magazine articles and three books: Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi, Freemasons — Tales From the Craft and Freemasons at Oak Island.

Whither are we traveling - Part Six

by Midnight Freemasons Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners

As we continue to explore Dwight L. Smith's seminal work, "Whither are We Traveling?", we begin to explore his answers to the ten questions he posed for self-examination of the state of Ancient Craft Freemasonry in 1963.  The questions he asked are as important and relevant now as they were then. This week we look at: 
Question 5: What can we expect when we have permitted Freemasonry to become subdivided into a score of organizations?

MWB Smith begins this section with a story about when he was younger.  He worked for a Newspaper and was amused by the power struggle between four churches in a town with a population less than four hundred inhabitants. He claims that all four of the churches were of the same denomination and had the same name. He states that each claimed to be the "Real Thing" and the membership of each church was convinced that the others were heretical. He then asks what a newly raised Master Mason must think of our subdivisions and wonders if they are just as baffling to him as the four churches were to MWB Smith. 

He continues with this thought, wondering what this new Master Mason must think when he discovers that no less than 70 organizations have attached themselves to Freemasonry and that the end is not in sight.  He wonders what his reaction is when he is solicited as soon as he becomes an Entered Apprentice.  He asks how this Mason must feel when he is referred to as a "Blue Lodge Mason", and wonders if this makes him feel inferior as if he was not complete. 

Dwight goes on to say that if we are interested in exploring the causes for a decline in membership, interest, and attendance; that we need to look at the subdivisions in Freemasonry. He states: "I stand firm on my conviction that in the United States we are spreading ourselves so thin that the basic unit – the Ancient Craft Lodge – is the loser. We may not end up by killing the goose that laid the golden egg, but certainly we are bleeding her white."  He goes on to say he is a member of many of the subdivisions. He then goes on to state that he is not the only one that is concerned, giving examples from Sir Alfred Robins, Noah Frey, and lastly Dr. Thomas S. Roy who said the below at the Conference of Grand Secretaries in North America in February 1962:

“If we permit the proliferation of Masonry into rites, and the 57 varieties of bodies whose membership is dependent upon ours, let us face the fact that the attendance that goes to them belongs to us. There is a sense in which it can be said that their success is our failure. I am not passing judgment on any of them. I am a good member in some of them, and have done my share of work in them. But they all must face the fact that they must pour some of their strength back into the Symbolic Lodge. For any weakness we develop must sooner or later communicate itself to them.”

Dwight goes on to state that it isn't a question of loyalty; nor any shortcomings in terms of Money, Benevolences or Good Works; as those are not the issues.  The issues that have never been faced are as MWB States:

"One: The weakening of the basic unit of Freemasonry by too great an emphasis on our subdivisions, and,
Two: The unsound premise that the child is more important than the parent. Let’s stand before the mirror and take an honest look at ourselves."

He then goes on to say:
"1. Masonic bodies and appendant organizations are actually competing for the time, the attendance, the interest, the substance, the devotion of Master Masons.   
I am sick and tired of all the talk about TV, and the automobile, and bowling leagues as competing influences. It is time we look in our own house to see where the competition comes from.

Like the four churches of the same name, each Masonic organization poses as the Real Thing. Each claims to have That Which Was Lost. Each is the true wrinkle if we want to appear before the world as a Big Mason – one with a collection of degrees, exclusive and affluent."

My reply to this is "Preach".... with my hands raised to the sky.  Full disclosure, I am also a member of Appendant bodies.  However, nothing aggravates more than running into one of my brothers who is no longer showing up for our stated meetings, no longer interested in helping us make quorum to keep our lodge alive but yet is at every event of (Insert X Appendant Body name).   Anytime you bring this up with this brother, you get a plethora of excuses as to why they aren't attending lodge.  

Now what MWB Smith doesn't state but which I want to reflect on here is that if the lodge is dysfunctional, I can't really blame the brother. If we are spending all of our time in the stated meeting arguing over bills, repairs, and other mundane items that could be resolved in emails or a quick zoom call; then shame on us.  If we are not attempting any activities that lead to fellowship, like pre or post-meeting dinners or festive boards, or helping the members with self-improvement in the form of Masonic education, then we have only ourselves to blame.   

"2. Our subdivisions have encouraged the mental attitude that when a Master Mason gains membership in another body, he then and there has outgrown the Ancient Craft Lodge.
Several months after I became a Mason I was solicited by a worker in one of the recognized bodies. But I had mental reservations. “Why is it,” I asked him, “that Masons who belong to the other bodies place such a stress on those affiliations and seem to care so little about their Lodge?” Just what answer he gave me I do not remember. Really, it doesn’t matter too much, for the question never has been answered to my satisfaction. I held out for about three years before I presented my petition.

Years later, when I received the degrees in another Masonic body, I overheard a past presiding officer say, “Now here, in this body, you will find the Cream of Masonry.” From that day to this, I have resented such artificial class distinction. 

The newspaper obituary in my files which states that the deceased “was a member of 17 organizations, 10 of them Masonic groups,” and then proceeds to list everything that could be bought with money, is a case in point. To be a Master Mason was not enough; actually, that was of little or no importance.
And what about the Vanishing Emblem? What is wrong with the Square and Compass? Even Grand Masters have discarded it. Is it no longer a badge of honor?Must something else replace it to set the wearer apart and place him in the aristocracy?

A young man of my acquaintance was interested in petitioning for the degrees. He was interested, that is, until a Master Mason gave him the old Superiority Sales Talk, something like this: “Sure, I’m a member of Brotherly Love Lodge, but only because I have to be. The Blue Lodge, it doesn’t mean a thing to me. What I’m after is what give me the prestige and helps me in my business!”

And we wonder why attendance is poor, why interest is lax, why the membership curve goes downward!"

I agree with MWB Smith. Freemasonry collectively needs to take a good look in the mirror.  On the first point, I am amazed that MWB Smith was able to avoid someone trying to get him to petition to join an appendant body for several months.   How many of us have experienced a situation where a Newly raised Master Mason is circled by members of other appendant bodies with petitions in hand after their degree like a shark might circle its prey?  These new Master Masons are nothing more than chum in the water to these brethren who are these Sharks. Why do we allow brethren who are so desperate for membership in their Appendant body to do this on the most important night of this Mason's career?  The body is freshly raised, yet we do not allow them to think about the importance of what just occurred to them?  Instead, we allow them to be swallowed whole by these vultures.  

Our Grand Lodges do no better when they allow men who are raised in their one-day classes to immediately join appendant bodies who have their representatives there at the class.  These men have not even had any time to reflect on their journey in the Blue Lodge, and yet we now allow them to join other bodies?  Yet this activity is done with the blessing of our Grand Lodges, with little to no thought about the impact this might have on their own lodges.  I guess as long as they are paying dues it's fine, right?   Never mind the lodges that bring in several members this way only to have them never attend a stated meeting because they really only wanted to join Appendant body X, Y, or Z?  These brethren will never see the sacred space of their Mother Lodge's lodge room nor understand that it is one due to only wanting to be a member of X, Y, Z appendant body.  I believe that unless we rethink how Appendant Bodies recruit members they will continue to take many brethren that might be assets to their Blue Lodges.             

For those of you who are probably saying, "Well Darin, aren't you being a little heavy-handed?  The appendant bodies serve a purpose to continue and build upon what is taught in the Blue Lodge."  While this is true, shouldn't we have some requirements for a Master Mason to join other bodies?  How is wanting men to experience Blue Lodge a bad thing?   

There used to be a requirement for Masons to either be a 32nd Degree Scottish Rite Mason or Knight Templar in order to join the Shrine.  Is it too much to ask that a Freemason be a Past Master or at least be a Master Mason for a minimum of 5 years before joining any appendant body?  What does a man gain from advancing in his journey in Freemasonry if he has little to no idea about what the First Three Degrees represent?  What does the appendant body gain from such a man other than his degree fees or dues?  

MWB Smith illustrates rather succinctly how the failure to guard the West Gate in the blue lodge has trickled down to the appendant bodies.  For those appendant bodies that are not invite-only, should there not be a way to screen your incoming candidates?  Shouldn't the other brethren in an appendant organization have a say in who else is joining?  If there is a man who is looking at Freemasonry as a tool to advance himself or his business, then it is apparent that such a man should have never become a member in the first place.   Subsequently, we now have such men infiltrating the other bodies, and is it any wonder that now these bodies are suffering as well?  When Blue Lodges and Appendant bodies begin to turn into Multilevel Marketing Businesses, this is what we reap.  Cancer spreads.     

"3 . Then there are these subdivisions that foster the attitude that, within their place of refuge, the standards of Ancient Craft Masonry do not apply. 
Therein lies a situation that is more than alarming; it is downright vicious. Scarcely a Jurisdiction in the United States is free of headaches brought on by some group restricting its membership to Masons, but considering itself exempt from Masonic standards. A few Jurisdictions have met the issue head on, to the good of all Freemasonry. Others have looked in the other direction and thereby have damaged the entire Fraternity.

One of these days Masonic leadership had better come to grips with the issue. The winking attitude which says, in effect, “It’s none of our business as long as you are not wearing an apron,” is unthinkingly dealing a body blow to our beloved Craft. A serious minded young friend of mine expressed interest in Masonry until a Past Master gave him a lurid description of the antics and the carousals he enjoyed in his favorite appendant organization. That ended his interest. Mark it down. The public makes no distinction between the Master Mason who wears an apron and the Master Mason who wears some other kind of garb."

I think you can probably read between the lines as to where he might be aiming his criticism, but without knowing exactly who MWB Smith is referring to here, I will keep my inferences to myself.  I think the underlying message is that your behavior matters.  Remember this the next time when you're wearing your cap with the Square and Compass/Double Eagle/Shrine Emblem/insert symbol to represent 'X' masonic body in public.  You are representing the Craft.  If you decide to go full "Karen" and you get video recorded doing it wearing the Square and Compass on your apparel, then you only have yourself to blame when you end up on Tik Tok and the Grandmaster or one of his subordinates reprimands you.    

MWB Smith did not even have the idea of Social Media on his radar. As I and others have written extensively on the subject, I think the lesson to be taken from this is that you always represent Freemasonry, whether in public space or cyberspace, so govern yourselves accordingly.  The best thing to do is to treat Social Media like you should be acting in the lodge, and avoid discussion of divisive topics such as Politics or Religion. What you put on Social Media is not easily removable.  Reaching peak anger in cyberspace isn't the best reflection of who you are or what you represent, but the public does not know this.  This is the only reflection they will see.    

"4. When the leadership of Ancient Craft Masonry neglects the parent body to smile upon everything which claims a relationship to Freemasonry, however remote, that leadership is not contributing to a solution of our problem; it is only aggravating it. In a single year, not so long ago, two American Grand Masters actually visited more appendant bodies than Symbolic Lodges in their respective terms of office.

From one end of America to the other, Grand Masters are going up and down their jurisdictions like itinerate peddlers, promoting everything under the sun except plain, unadulterated Symbolic Freemasonry. They go to Washington to attend what used to be the Grand Masters’ Conference and find that it has become “Masonic Week” with the side-shows taking over. Truly, the tail has begun to wag the dog. And we wonder what is wrong!

Subdivided we stand, and subdivided, I fear, we shall fall.

One does not have to be more than forty to remember when the super-patriots raged over the hyphenated American, declaring it was time to drop Old World loyalties and become an American without a hyphen.

Well, I am not advocating that hyphenated Masons eliminate anything that contributes to their understanding and appreciation of Freemasonry. But I am preaching a gospel of fundamentals. I am calling on our Symbolic Lodges to do a better job of upgrading themselves. And I am challenging the other Masonic organizations and appendant groups to put a stop to the down-grading of the Symbolic Lodge; to acknowledge by actions, rather than words, that the Lodge is the fountainhead of all Freemasonry; to put first things first; to look unto the rock whence they are hewn."

I do not know if this is the case or not, but apparently, Dwight was calling out some Grand Lodge Officers that he felt cared more about appendant bodies than their own Blue Lodges.  I have to admit I did chuckle regarding his shot towards "Masonic Week" given how it has become one of the main events in the world of American Freemasonry. 

At the end of the day, I think that we have seen through the "Not Just a Man" program that the NMJ/SMJ of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite along with the Shriners have sponsored that they recognize their core membership must come from Blue Lodge Masonry. Talk to any Grand Secretary and I believe that they will tell you that a majority of their membership inquiries are coming from this website.  

Dwight's challenge to the Blue Lodges rings true. How many men would seek out other appendant bodies if they were getting everything they needed from their own Blue Lodge?  I guess we may never know the answer to that question.  I will tell you that you can't blame a man for going to another restaurant for pizza when all your lodge is serving him is ketchup on a saltine.  If your Blue Lodge experience is not fulfilling all of your members, then you only have yourselves to blame when members are not attending your meetings.  

In my next article, I will explore the next question MWB Smith poses, which is: Question 6: Has the American passion for bigness and efficiency dulled the spirit of Masonic charity?


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

St. John the Evangelist - Revisit

by Midnight Freemason Emeritus Contributor
W.B. James E. Frey

My Brethren, December 27th marks the hallowed feast day of St. John the Evangelist. St. John is an important and distinguished figure within the symbolism of the Craft. St. John was one of the main apostles of Jesus Christ and is renowned with receiving from the Christ, a secret mystical doctrine which would define the Johnannite tradition. The word evangelist means writer of the gospel and St. John is accredited with writing the Gospel of John, the Epistles of John, and the book of Revelation. Bro Mackey states that St. John is venerated in Masonry because “His constant admonition, in his Epistles, to the cultivation of brotherly love, and the mystical nature of his Apocalyptic visions, have been perhaps, the principle reasons for the veneration paid to him by the Craft. “ (Mackey, Masonic Encyclopedia)

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!"

It is said of all those in attendance, that it was only John and James that stayed after the ceremony to talk with Jesus of his experience. John then invited his new Master to his home in Galilee. He traveled with Christ to attend marriage feast of Cana. At the feast, John witnessed the miracle of water being turned to wine. This miracle solidified John’s dedication as a disciple and follower of Christ through out his travels. It is said that he was within Christ’s innermost circle and was one of the first disciples to be invested with the power to heal the sick. John suffered with Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane and sat at his right hand during the last supper.

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.
Irenaeus states that after the death of Peter and Paul, St. John settled in Ephesus. From there, Saint Jerome says that John supervised and governed all the Churches of Asia. Around 97 A.D. John was exiled to the Aegean island of Pathmos where he received apocalyptic visions, which he recorded in the Book of Revelation. The date of his death cannot be determined but John was the only Apostle of the original twelve that did not die by martyrdom.

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.

This is often also attributed an Egyptian symbolism. I is for Isis, giver of life, A is for Apophis the destroyer, and Osiris risen which is also given solar meaning. From a psychological perspective this formula is important because our sense of identity is ever changing as we experience new things and grow as a person. Those who are afraid of destroying who they are in order to grow often become stagnate in psychological growth and develop neuroses around this painful transition.

Over all the dedication of lodges to the St. Johns dedicates the lodge itself as a solar temple representing the yearly course of the Sun. It places this subconscious symbolism on each initiate as they travel from the shortest to longest day on a search for both external light of the intellect and internal light of the spirit, or Word. On an exoteric level you have a representation of the Evangelist being a reminder of steadfast duty to one’s faith. Esoterically the Evangelist is the Initiate who becomes the master, and through astrological correlation is symbolic for the Masonic journey.


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.

Whither Are We Traveling? - Part Five

by Midnight Freemasons Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners

As we continue to explore Dwight L. Smith's seminal work, "Whither are We Traveling?", we begin to explore his answers to the ten questions he posed for self-examination of the state of Ancient Craft Freemasonry in 1963.  The questions he asked are as important and relevant now as they were then. This week we look at: 
Question 4: Are we not worshipping at the altar of Bigness?

MWB Smith starts this section with the following: 
"One of the most serious trends in American Freemasonry is the development of the oversized, impersonal Lodge. Even though such a condition is utterly foreign to all the traditions of Freemasonry, little or nothing is being done to correct it. On the contrary, Lodges are encouraged and expected to become even larger. What the result will be, no one knows. It may require a crisis of the first order to bring us to our senses.

The entire philosophy of Freemasonry is built around the individual – the erection of a moral edifice within the heart of a man. All its symbolism is individual symbolism; all its tradition and practice is aimed at making individuals wiser, better, and consequently happier. Mass movements simply have no place in Freemasonry, and never have had. Then why do we worship at the altar of bigness? 

For one thing, we are Americans. We measure civilization in terms of automobiles, TV sets and bathtubs. We count the number of gadgets as shown in the census reports and assume that means we are more civilized."

The above lines remind me of some of the quotes from both the novel Fight Club and the movie of the same name. There are two in particular which I think echo MWB Smith's sentiment. The first is: "You buy furniture. You tell yourself, this is the last sofa I will ever need in my life. Buy the sofa, then for a couple years you're satisfied that no matter what goes wrong, at least you've got your sofa issue handled. Then the right set of dishes. Then the perfect bed. The drapes. The rug. Then you're trapped in your lovely nest, and the things you used to own, now they own you.The second quote is: "Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy sh*t we don’t need."  I believe that MWB Smith sees that American Consumerism is one of the ills of society which has inflitrated Freemasonry.  In the American quest for Bigger being better, he saw that the membership numbers would be unsustainable and that eventually in adding members (many of which probably shouldn't have become members in the first place had the west gate been guarded properly) would cause many lodges to lose the fellowship and comradery that would help keep them active. 

WMB Smith goes on to state:
"In the United States, the average membership of Masonic Lodges is about 252; in Canada’s nine Jurisdictions, 166; in the seven of Australasia, 117; in Puerto Rico, 92; in Scotland, 85; in England, 80; in Mexico, 70; in Germany, 53.

Interestingly enough, the small Lodges overseas have little or no attendance problem. The Brethren receive a summons to attend their Lodge and they attend because it is worth attending, and because the membership is small enough that there is a congenial, closely knit unit – a community of interest, if you please. And certainly no one can accuse the overseas Lodges of not “doing things.” In their benevolent work and in their impact on community life, they put us to shame.

In the 49 Jurisdictions of the United States average membership ranges from a high of 482 in the District of Columbia to a low of 115 in North Dakota. There is even a Lodge in Kansas with some 5,700 members. (I almost hesitate to mention the fact for fear some of our itchy Hoosier Brethren will set out to exceed that record of doubtful distinction.)
Only nine Jurisdictions have a higher average membership per Lodge than Indiana’s 336. They are all in densely populated States. (It will give us grave concern, I am sure, to know we are tenth instead of at the top.)

Is all this talk some curious notion the Grand Secretary has all by himself? Not at all.
Some of the best minds in American Freemasonry are deeply concerned. Speaking of poor Lodge attendance, Past Grand Master Ralph J. Pollard, of Maine, observes: “This problem is probably inherent in our American system of large Lodges and relatively low dues. It is one of the prices we pay for bigness and cheapness … Probably the best long-range cure will be found in more and smaller Lodges where more Brethren can be put to work and where a warmer and more intimate fraternal spirit can develop.”

And in a masterly address before the Conference of Grand Secretaries in North America in February 1962, Dr. Thomas S. Roy, Past Grand Master of Massachusetts, observed, “If we permit our Lodges to increase in membership to a size inconsistent with a close fellowship, then we have created the conditions for non-attendance. The Grand Lodge of England is chartering new Lodges in England at the rate of over twenty-five a year. It is of some significance that, according to the latest figures, the average membership in all Lodges under the Grand Lodge of England is roughly eighty."

I will just say this.  Our collective obsession with numbers has to stop.  I'm guilty of it, Dwight Smith is guilty of it, many of the authors of this blog are guilty of it, most importantly, Grand Lodges are guilty of it.  Do I think that some lodges have grown too large?  Sure, I'm sure that's the case.  However, regardless of the size of your lodge, I believe that you will only ever get at a maximum of 20 percent of your total membership to show up at a stated meeting or event.  If you have 60 members of your lodge and 12 show up to a stated meeting, then you are right at 20 percent. In many cases, you are going to be less.  Unless you have a Traditional Observance lodge or affliation lodge, where your membership is capped at a certain number, then you might need to have a higher number of active members; otherwise, I think we need to stop obessing over numbers.   

One of the things that I often hear get brought up in comparison to the future of Freemasonry is the Oddfellows.  As an oddfellow myself, I feel that comparison is a slap in the face to the Oddfellows.  The Oddfellow Lodge that I below to is in Tuscola, Illinois.  They are an active and thriving community of artists (for the most part); and I believe that they are probably more active in their community than the Masonic lodge there. To be honest, the Oddfellows as a whole are better positioned to survive and to recruit membership going into the future because they are more socially progressive by allowing women and are in my personal experience more LGBTQ+ friendly.  

While I'm not going to go into a diatribe about either, I will only say that if Grand Lodges are concerned with bringing in new members, they might want to actually enforce their so-called "Social Media" policies.  The reactions of the majority of Masonic membership on the more popular Masonic Facebook Groups towards either subject does not reflect Freemasonry in a good light.  If they are truly concerned about bringing in new membership, then they need to do more to police the members that have joined while the west gate was left mostly unguarded.  

MWB Smith then asks: "What happens when we worship at the altar of bigness?
1.Well, in the first place, our annual waste of leadership is nothing short of a sin.
Every year our Lodges welcome into Masonic membership hundreds of men with a great potential for inspired, dedicated leadership – and then we make certain they will have no opportunity to exercise it. Only one Master can serve in a given Lodge per year. We close the door on the best we have because we are too shortsighted, too solicitous of numbers and bank account to divide our membership into smaller units and utilize the manpower that is going to waste.

2. We provide too few opportunities for new members to use their talents, and then wonder why they lose interest and drift away. I have heard Lodge officers complain bitterly about new members coming once, twice, three times, and then no more. But why should they come when there is nothing for them to do except listen to the minutes and allow the bills? There is no place for them; worst of all, no one seems to care.

3.The fellowship of Freemasonry does not thrive in the mass. When will we ever learn that fellowship, that sweet and precious jewel of our Brotherhood, is an intimate thing not shared with great numbers? Some of the most priceless memories of my 28 years as a Mason center around individual contacts with just a few of my Brethren in the Lodge room and about the table – those times when we were doing things together, rejoicing in prosperity, standing steady in adversity –but always together. Thank God there weren’t a thousand of us. If there had been, I daresay my interest in Freemasonry would have withered on the vine years ago.

What must be the feeling of a newly raised member when he discovers that his Lodge, which promised him fellowship and intimate friendships, is but a huge, impersonal aggregation of strangers – a Closed Corporation!

And we wonder why the membership curve goes downward, and why Masons do not attend meetings of their Lodges!"

My personal opinion is that MWB Smith is suffering from cognitive bias in his first  statement.  I don't personally believe that every man that joins Freemasonry wants to be the Master of his lodge.  I believe that many members have no desire to go through the Officer line.  So while I believe that MWB is correct in stating that a larger lodge would impair one's ability to serve in the Officer's line, I also believe that in many cases, there is still a smaller pool of active members that would be potential officers.  

He is absolutely correct with his second statement. We need to do a better job of finding each members talents and using them for the benefit of the lodge which is what WB Bill Hosler argues in this article:  It is absolutely imparitive to give each member a purpose and make them feel a sense of belonging which leads into his third point. 

On his third point, I would agree that a lodge must be welcoming and open to it's new members.  Every lodge needs to have as it's priority a mentoring program that connects the new members with more experienced members of the lodge and needs to prioritize the membership experience (more on this in later articles).  Impersonal lodges that are cliques are not going to be welcoming to new members regardless of their size. I do not see a correlation between a lodge's size and it's accomdating new members.  This being said, I do believe that we would be better off with 10 lodges of 25 members instead of one lodge of 250 members (If such Lodges still exist).   

MWB Smith finishes this section with the following: 

"What are we doing about it?
1.  Just making certain that new Lodges will be formed, that’s all. Then why aren’t we at work on a long range, patient effort to correct a serious condition? Well, first of all, remember, we are Americans, and in all areas of life we worship at the altar of bigness.

Two men came to my office to talk over what had to be done to form a Lodge in a rapidly growing community. Let us call the community Suburbia. One of the Brethren made a significant statement that has been ringing in my ears from that day to this: “In my Lodge of more than 1,500 members,” he said, “I haven’t a ghost of a chance to ever go through the chairs. A new Lodge at least would give me the chance.” That Lodge was never organized, because a neighboring Lodge sent a committee to serve notice on the Brethren that “We regard Suburbia as a stock pile for our Lodge.”

2. Then, we are not at work organizing new Lodges because a new Lodge might cause some inconvenience to a horde of organizations now occupying quarters in our Temples. Scores of Masonic Temples in Indiana have room for one or two additional Lodges, but house only one. Instead of encouraging Lodges of Ancient Craft Masonry, which should be occupying our Temples, we shut the door on them in favor of groups which have attached themselves to Freemasonry’s coattails. Isn’t that statesmanlike thinking?

What happens to an institution designed to be simple becomes complex, when units meant to be small become oversize and unwieldy, when work intended for many is restricted to a handful, when something that should be intimate becomes impersonal?

What happens? Look around. Exhibit A is all about us."

There is a lesson to be learned in MWB Smith's first point.  I take this from my own Mother Lodge's history.  My mother lodge was formed by members of Ogden Lodge.  These men petitioned several times to form a lodge in St Joseph Illinois, but they were blocked by the other members of Ogden Lodge.  It is my understanding that it took the intervention of the Grand Master at the time to allow St Joseph Lodge #970 to be born.  Why?  Because Ogden used St. Joseph as a recruiting resource and did not want to lose the membership they had already from St. Joseph.  All this being said, I believe that now we see the opposite problem with a few exceptions.  I believe that in the next ten to fifteen years we are going to see an unprecidented closing and consolidation of lodges. While I bemoan this, I also see potential benefits.  Case in point, I am a member of both Homer Lodge #199 and St. Joseph Lodge #970. I am a plural member at Homer.  I was up until a few years ago also a plural member at Ogden Lodge.  All of these lodges are located roughly less than 10 miles from each other.   In a rural area, where we are having to plural just to keep the lodge alive, don't we need to ask the question if we'd be better off just consolidating the lodges?  Wouldn't one lodge made up of the active membership of the three lodges be stronger than three seperate lodges that are struggling to make quorum every meeting?  I think it's something to consider sooner rather than later. 

Secondly, I think MWB Smith was correct and continues to be correct his second point. However, I think the motivations of many of these organizations are now mercenary.  I believe that many new lodges are unable to use current Masonic buildings due to the ruling bodies of those buildings setting rent so high as to discourage the use of building in an attempt to use the new lodge as solution to keep the building open.  Let's face facts, many of our older buildings require a tremendous amount of money and effort to maintain. Also, many of our average Lodge buildings were not built as multi-purpose, or with retail space to allow the income from said space to be used to help maintain and upkeep the building they reside in.   

I am lucky in that both the lodges that I belong to have such space, so that eliminates at least the need for us to do massive fundraisers to keep the doors open.   Many lodges do not have this luxury so it leads itself towards the exploitation of other Masonic bodies using their space.   This in turn leads to two results: 
1. The other Masonic body using the space can no longer financially support it's agreement so it is either forced to close, consolidate or leave that space.
2. No other Masonic body is willing to occupy that space as they see what happened to "X" body and do not want a repeat of the events. 

For being so called brothers, I have found in my personal experience that Men can be prideful.  Instead of wanting to look for solutions that include the other Masonic bodies that occupy the space, they often give them no say in the governing bodies that control the decision making for the building they occupy.  So what happens is a situation where the "governing" body decides to raise rent on the other Masonic body, without getting their input or working towards a mutually beneficial solution.  So what instead happens is that the "governing" body raises rent, and makes the space unaffordable to the lodge that is currently occupying it, and forces that renting body into making a decision that I highlighted above.  Instead of a win-win solution, instead a lose - lose scenario occurs.  I have seen this happen more than once in my own personal experience. 

In my next article, I will explore the next question MWB Smith poses, which is: Question 5: What can we expect when we have permitted Freemasonry to become subdivided into a score of organizations?


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

The Passing of RWB Thomas W. Jackson

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.