I Will Walk the Symbolic Path

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Randy Sanders

I will walk the Symbolic Path, and let the Fraternity continue. Freemasonry endured centuries before us, and it will continue centuries beyond. There will always be ritualists and non-ritualists, there will always be symbologists and non-symbologists, and there will always be those committed to the administration of the Craft by way of taking on officer roles. Or not. Not every Mason fits into a silo of how others believe Masons should be, and that’s the beauty of the Craft. Every Mason’s path is unique, and I guarantee you have not walked in their shoes except at one place: kneeling at that altar. Respect that difference.

Allegorical instruction illustrated by symbols. We know this phrase, albeit a little differently. The teachings of the ages are indeed mysteries, and they remain mysteries to those not interested in looking. Let those people be. We don’t need to be knocking on people’s heads to force them to see as we do. What we need to be doing is refocusing on what’s important to us, and quit trying to force this eye-opening on others. In the long run, we all have the opportunity to look inwardly, and we have the ability to sit silently. We do not have any right and in fact many admonitions against, pushing our internal views on others.

Likewise, we have the obligation and the Agape view of Love/Charity to reach out the helping and guiding hand toward those around us who desire to improve themselves. It’s our calling to help ourselves and help others around us. We may do that in many ways such as guiding the development of ritualists, actively supporting our Grand Lodge officers’ endeavors, or taking on roles and responsibilities within our own local lodges or bodies. We may opt to focus inwardly, and that is not mutually exclusive to the other ways of participating in the Craft.

My choice was and remains to focus on the symbolism and to put effort into the contemplative practices toward finding myself, of taking that leap. I encourage anyone who wants to do so to not let anything stand in their way. Be mindful of your 24-inch gauge, but find ways to make time work in your favor in your prayers. Practice yields results; more practice yields more results.

How do I get started? Ask and it shall be answered.


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.

Whither are we traveling - Part Seven

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 6: Has the American passion for bigness and efficiency dulled the spirit of Masonic charity?

WMB Smith begins this section by giving an example of how in asking an average Mason (in his case of being from Indiana, he says Hoosier Mason) about Masonic Charity you'll receive the list of the organized, institutional Charities that each Grand Lodge and Masonic appendant bodies have created. He then goes on to state that when pushed to describe it at the lodge level. When asked about what he is doing personally he might give various examples, and will even produce all the receipts from his own donations throughout the year that he will write off as tax deductions.  But when asked directly the question: "How long has it been since you went on foot and out of your way to aid and succor a needy Brother?" the Mason might look astonished, but then pity the question asker for being insane. 

He then asks the question: "What has happened to Masonic charity?", and recalls a time when it was "one of the sweetest by-products of the teachings of the Craft."  He recalls a time when while reading the minutes of his mother lodge, he read about the brethren getting together and building a modest home for one of their Masonic widows, and another when they donated a cord of wood to a widow of a mons who was not a Mason.  He states that there was a time when such acts were common. 

He laments that they now are rare, but that when they do happen, the impact upon the recipient of the charity is tremendous. He gives two reasons as to why he feels they are now rare.

1. The American need for acknowledgement of charitable efforts. Instead of being content with quiet selfless acts of charity, we instead want to advertise our giving and be acknowledged for it.  We want plaques to hang up on our walls telling us how great we are for giving to those who are less fortunate. 

2. Freemasonry does things the hard way when it's working properly, however we no longer want to undertake the charitable efforts of our ancestors.  Instead of pitching in to build a widow a home, we'd rather just write her a check. 

He then goes on to say that he is not attacking Masonic charities, but rather the "laziness, the complacency, the lack of vision with which we pour great sums of money into organized benevolences, and then, with self-righteous congratulations to ourselves, let it go at that."

He then asks the following:
"Wherein do we fall short? Let’s look in the mirror:
1. Is it worth mentioning? – How often do we hear the Master call for reports of
sickness at a meeting of the Lodge? In how many Masonic halls is the Box of
Fraternal Assistance passed? In how many halls could such a box be found?

2. Do we remember? – How often are the members of a Lodge called upon to
assist in person, in some act of true Masonic charity? Are they ever asked to
visit the sick, or is that assignment turned over to a retired Brother who has
nothing else to do? How many years can go by without a Master Mason giving
of himself in an act of benevolence, or charity, or brotherhood?

3. Are we interested? – In far too many Lodges the payment of the annual per
capita tax to the Grand Lodge is looked upon as the full discharge of all
obligations pertaining to charity – an act which relieves every individual
member of further concern for the year ending December 31. When I say that,
unfortunately, I am not merely engaging in rhetoric; I am speaking of an actual

4. First things last? – In far too many Lodges even the easy expedient of
soliciting voluntary contributions for the Masonic Home is pushed aside as
something of minor importance if there is a new Temple to build or pay for. Selfindulgence comes at the head of the list.

5. Crumbs from the table? – Each Lodge in Indiana is required to have a relief
fund. But how much? I am ashamed to have the minimum figure seen in print.
It is such a paltry sum that it could hardly do more than buy an occasional cup
of coffee for a street beggar. The minimum should be twenty times its present

Instead of addressing each question, I will just say this. While I agree with MWB Smith's questioning of our individual efforts of charity as Freemasons, I do want to state that I do not agree that the Masonic Charities of my Grand Lodge are being done just to give self-righteous congratulations to itself. I do believe they do amazing work to help the Brethren and their families as well as the Widows and Masonic Orphans in my Grand Jurisdiction of Illinois.  

His main point is, I believe, is that we as individual Masons have neglected our duty to look after each other.  In the current world, where we are surrounded by distractions at every turn and being bombarded by information, I will be the first to admit that I often do not practice this form of Masonic charity as much as I should.  As a lodge, we are often discussing brethren that are suffering from hardship, and we are doing what we can to relieve them.  However, am I doing enough individually to reach out to them?  I have not.  I have no excuse for this other than I am one of the Masons that MWB Smith is right to point his finger at. I acknowledge I have to do a better job of this, as do many other brothers.  

Maybe you're one of these brothers like me or maybe not.  However, in the amount of time that we spend on frivolous pursuits like social media, could we not be checking in our brothers?  Think about how much time you spend mindlessly scrolling each week, and then think about what else you could have done with that time.  Are we using our 24-inch gauge wisely?  I personally can say that I make a concerted effort to try to stay off social media, but it still probably accounts for more than a couple hours of my week.  This is time that I could be using to practice the Charity that MWB Smith speaks of.  

He goes on to say:  

"But there is another side to the coin. Let’s look at that side for a moment:
1. Given the challenge to practice Masonic charity in its intimate and personal form, almost any Lodge and almost any individual Mason will respond with enthusiasm. More important, Freemasonry will then come to have a new meaning for them. A few years ago the Grand Master of Missouri, distressed by the perfunctory manner in which the charity obligation is discharged, set out on
a campaign to encourage Lodges to perform their own acts of charity –
voluntary acts, impulsive acts, without organization, without advance planning
and ballyhoo. He asked each Lodge to send him a written report of what it had
done. I read many of those reports, but not without a lump in my throat.

And not only in Missouri can it happen. Right here in Indiana I have seen
glorious examples of Masonic charity. For example, the story of one small
Lodge which came face to face with a staggering obligation, and of how the
Brethren responded to their everlasting credit.  

2. Any Lodge, large or small, which experiences the joy of giving of itself in a
truly personal act of charity discovers that it literally has been born again.
Once I heard the Senior Warden of a large Lodge describe the distress in the
home of the widow of a deceased Brother who was making a brave struggle to
hold her family together. “It is not often we have calls for relief,” he said. “Now
this is our opportunity.” Significantly, that Lodge is not losing in
membership and has no attendance problems.

A Past Master of a small Lodge which levied an assessment to meet a relief
emergency sat in my office and declared, “That incident was the best thing that
has happened to our Lodge in the 40 years I have been a Mason, for, until then,
most of us had no clear idea of the true meaning of Masonry.”

What does it all add up to?
Well, for me, it adds up to this: We are missing a golden opportunity for a great
Masonic renaissance when we continue to let our American passion for bigness and efficiency dull the spirit of true Masonic charity. There simply is no substitute for the personal touch on the local level where it counts.

Don’t tell me how many hundreds of thousands of dollars Freemasons contribute annually to organized benevolent projects. That is not the question at stake. And don’t give me the old excuse that Lodges are prohibited from using their funds for purposes not Masonic. That, too, is avoiding the issue. Freemasonry, if it operates as such, is a relationship with individuals, and I insist on talking about the personal efforts of Lodges and individual Master Masons. I want to know what individual Masons are doing to relieve distress – in their own communities, by their own effort.

Whenever Lodge is opened and whenever it is closed, the Senior Warden tells the
Master why he was induced to become a Master Mason. One of the reasons he offers is that he might “contribute to the relief of poor distressed Master Masons, their widows, and orphans.”

Lip service? Sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal?

Not unless we make it so. The Brethren are here; they are as generous and kindly and thoughtful as they ever were. It is up to us to give them the occasion to do what they have obligated themselves to do. Given that opportunity, Master Masons will respond in such a manner that the revival of Freemasonry will no longer be a fond hope – it will be here and now."

What Dwight is stating is that when lodges or Masons are given the opportunity to do their own acts of charity, not only do they respond in kind, it often energizes the lodge.  I feel that he believes that what complicates these efforts is that we have a wonderful and benevolent Charity organization at the Grand Lodge, which is fulfilling this role.  However, he believes that if given the opportunity to practice relief that the individual lodges and brethren would rise to the challenge. 

While I do agree that when given the opportunity, individual lodges would rise to the challenge, I don't believe that it's an either-or scenario.  What needs to be happening is a partnership between individual lodges and the charities to contribute to this relief.  Maybe the programs that were available in MWB Smith's time were not as robust as the ones that we currently have, this I do not know.  

However, I do know that at least here in Illinois, I am extremely proud to extoll the great work that they do to help our brethren, widows, and orphans; as well as children in our communities.  Many of the programs that IMOS, IMCAP, and IMSAP (Illinois Masonic Outreach Program, Illinois Masonic Children's Assitance Program, and Illinois Masonic Student Assistance Program) provide often are programs that are too expensive or difficult for individual lodges to undertake by themselves.  So while I do believe that we should absolutely do more at the local lodge level to assist our brethren, widows, and orphans that are distressed, I also think that without the Grand Lodge programs, there would be more of our brethren going without as individual lodges would not be able to shoulder this burden of relief on their own. 

In my next article, I will explore the next question MWB Smith poses, which is: Question 7: Do we pay enough attention to the Festive Board?


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.

Look to the East…Superintending the Craft through Eastern Practices: A Book Review

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Brendan Hickey

Look to the East…Superintending the Craft through Eastern Practices
by Dwight S. Decoskey II
Published by PropOps Shop Publications
Paperback, $20.00

Brother Decoskey uses the term East in both the Masonic and cultural meanings. Among his many credentials are twenty years of work experience as a contractor for the U.S. Department of Defense, and an MBA degree. This book does not have a New Age vibe at all. Instead, the writing is concise, direct, honest, and sometimes blunt.

At just 95 pages, this book can also be read quickly, and that may be the best way to approach it. Read it quickly one time, dog-ear and mark the pages that grab your attention, then come back for another, careful, deliberate read. The author says that his goal is to avoid any sort of indoctrination, a goal that he achieves, and asks instead only that you consider the information that he provides.

The three parts of this book focus, variously, on exercise and breathing; diet and nutrition; and spirituality and community. Much of the content will be familiar to most readers. We already know that we should move more than we probably do; eat less and better than we probably do, and connect with the Supreme Architect and our personal communities more intentionally than we probably do. We have this information, but it sounds a bit different when coming from a brother, who has our interests at heart. The author also frames his suggestions in terms of making us fit to be of the best service to our fraternity, building on our own worthwhile reasons for changing our habits.

Brother Decoskey is careful to connect Eastern ideas with Western science and his own opinions of his with support from someone else. There are seven pages on poop, used as a gauge of overall health. There are ten pages on religion so that you can meet brothers of different faiths on the square. There is a page on chakras. However, the author also teaches the reader diaphragmatic breathing, used by U.S Navy SEALs as well as Eastern practitioners, and known to this reviewer as tactical or four-square breathing, used for stress control by emergency responders. It’s also useful if you have to speak in public, like, say, from the Worshipful Master’s station.

Look to the East seems to be written mostly for brothers in middle age and older, the men who are seeing the limitations that come with age, but this book may appeal to anyone who wants to delay the onset of those limitations. Any brother who is interested in his health and remaining strong to continue his good work in Freemasonry may find value in this book.

The book may be purchased HERE


Brendan Hickey is a Past Master of Thomson Lodge No. 340 in Paoli, PA; King of Howell Royal Arch Chapter No. 202 in West Chester, PA; and Pursuivant of Pennsylvania Lodge of Research No. 1. He is also a Master Masonic Scholar through the Pennsylvania Academy of Masonic Knowledge. Brendan works as a school psychologist and volunteers in emergency mental health in Pennsylvania and Delaware.

My Brother’s Keeper

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Chris Hathaway

“Am I my brother’s keeper” is a question that has been asked since the first sons of Adam. When Cain fired this question back to his creator, he had no idea we would be asking ourselves that same question of each other countless times over throughout our lives. God expects us to be each other’s keeper. Does this only extend to our biological brothers? No.

2021 has been rough. It wasn’t much better than 2020 and in some ways worse. 2022 is shaping out to be the trilogy of the pandemic and hopefully its last chapter. So how do we get through tough times? How do we keep hope alive? We look after each other, every day, in all our interactions.

All things considered, 2021 was one of my roughest years. But I had keepers everywhere I looked. My family and friends are second to none and were always there. But what if they weren’t? Who else can I rely on? Certainly when times are tough, we should look to the fraternity for guidance and fellowship. Too often when times get tough, I see guys fade away instead of embracing the brotherhood to its fullest extent. Masons throughout the State of Illinois had my back through it all, and most of them didn’t even know it. The routine of lodge, the degree rehearsals, and the programs kept normalcy in place when all else seemed lost.

But who else is our keeper and who else should we be looking after? Our coworkers are a good start. We spend more time with them than our own family on occasions. Do you lift people up when they are down or do you shame them for having bad days? Are you the guy that figures out what is going on in their lives before making rude comments? Practice showing grace and support even when people are having the worst of days. When you are out shopping, are you being your brother’s keeper to the store clerk, to the door greeters, the strangers in the parking lot. They just might need that touch of class, that smiling face, the hope that good people still exist. You are giving them light by being a decent human being especially in difficult times.

As I turned 31 years old this year, I reflected on the 31st Degree in the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, NMJ. A key theme in that degree addresses this very question “Am I my brother’s keeper?”. In various parts of the degree, the characters keep saying NO! Their excuses are weak although are always “justified” so they do not feel guilty about passing by without helping. In the end though, a just and upright Mason cuts through the bull and explains to the group that they are in fact their brother’s keeper, on all occasions.

Eric Church says this in the song ‘Those I’ve Loved’

“And I hope they know I never would have made it this far on my own, where would we all be without those fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers; the friends I’ve made along the way.”

So remember that when you’re out and about next time. Be there for people. Always. 


WB Christopher J. Hathaway was raised in Catlin Masonic Lodge #285 and is a plural member of Normal Masonic Lodge #673 as well as Bloomington Lodge #43, where he is a Past Master. He belongs to the Valley of Danville, AASR where he is the Most Wise Master of the George E. Burow Chapter of Rose Croix and Membership Chairman. He is the Oriental Guide in the High Priest & Prophet for the Mohammed Shiners, and the President of the Bloomington Shrine Club. Other appendant bodies include the Gao Grotto and the Illinois Lodge of Research. Outside of the lodge, he enjoys cheering on the Fighting Illini and Chicago Cubs.


by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Randy Sanders

Brother Darin Lahners walked us through a multi-part series looking at the Craft from some excellent historical commentary.  Brother Darin provided his own commentary but left the majority of the citation up to you for further reflection.  If you care to pull the parts together, I encourage you to reread that commentary as one long piece.  I don’t agree with a few observations, but I do agree with the vast majority.  Is this agreement or disagreement what we need to initiate deeper discussion in our lodges?  Is this creating or possibly following the blueprint for a reset?  Going back to some longtime criticisms to see where they hold merit, where those criticisms continue without correction, and how those criticisms may be considered in open and respectful dialogue?  

Here’s my own reset and forward-looking plan:  Contemplate nothing.

 What?  But Randy?  Brother Darin’s writings and reflections might be interpreted as a call to arms, of a push toward getting more accomplished by making some profound changes!  Yes, I agree.  I will explain.

What happens if we simply do nothing?  Read Brother Darin’s papers again, and now contemplate what happens in your own lodge, district, and jurisdiction if you simply do nothing.  That exercise is valuable in demonstrating the power of one.  What happens if you make one change?  What happens when you make another change?  Each one of the changes remains a powerful tool, and we each have a responsibility to play chess, not checkers when making changes in our fraternity. 

Yes, I said it.  Responsibility.  If you make the change, then you take ownership, right or wrong.  Doesn’t that mean we need to take time to consider what long-term ramifications might happen with that change?  If we enact a policy, can that policy come back to bite us in other ways?  What other changes might be included unintentionally? 

How can we look at an action and contemplate the possible results if we don’t first contemplate what happens if we do nothing?


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.

Reverence for All Beliefs: An Exploration of Consequences and Revelation of Moral Geography

A Joint OpEd by Midnight Freemason Contributor
R. H. Johnson
and Guest Contributor 
Kevin Homan

It is a long-standing belief within Freemasonry and the world for that matter, that each person, each individual conscious mind, has an inalienable right of personal liberty, personal choice, personal belief, and the freedom to explore those rights in the search for happiness. Thomas Paine writes in The Rights of Man, “Whatever is my right as a man is also the right of another; and it becomes my duty to guarantee as well as to possess.”

In this quote, we find the general position of the enlightened world. To verdantly assert the individual's right to all things, and within this–what is good for the goose, is good for the gander. That is, if one has complete freedom, all must have the same. What of these freedoms are tangible?

A tangible Freedom is an idea made real by its practice in the world in which we live. We think, and those thoughts beget action. When we act on these thoughts, we have unleashed a wave of probable outcomes, infinite in consequence. In just one example, we have freedom of speech, yet, we are not immune from the consequences of the words we write or that we vocalize. The rights guaranteed to all humanity are so divine, so spiritual and so personal–they are an ingrained part of our being. They determine how we act, who we are friends with, what groups we belong to, and can even determine our socioeconomic statuses.

The topic in this paper is the freedom of belief, and the respect the Masonic Fraternity has for the individual rights of men to hold whatever beliefs they see fit, so long as they check a number of ascribed boxes to which our fraternity is bound. Of those boxes within regular male craft Freemasonry regarding belief–we would see the acceptance of a Supreme Being (some will argue monotheism). Outside of this singular qualification which speaks to personal belief, there are two other attributes outlined within the interrogatories and question and answer portions of our ritual. Whether or not the ritual is to be taken literally or not, is a matter to be taken up by the Grand Master in each state, for only the Grand Master in each state can make such a judgment.

These other qualifications stipulate that a candidate who has come before the lodge for initiation is of “good report and well recommended.” In obvious terms, this means that the candidate is known by the proposers to be a good man, free from the allurements of vice and crime. A man who can be trusted. The other qualifications are to do with proper age (at least eighteen) and that the candidate is vouched for. These last two pieces as they relate to being admitted into our fraternity speak nothing of the general character of those whom we seek to initiate.

We ask our candidates if they are members of any group to which membership within the Masonic Fraternity is incompatible. In our 27 years of combined service to the Craft, we have never stopped an initiation due to a response to this question. Of this question, we have much to discuss. It is a question that when contemplated, opens a door that cannot be shut. For it forces us to look to the hearts and consciousnesses of our existing members and our petitioners. To what organizations do they belong that the various Masonic credos would be in opposition? Belonging to such an organization is a physical and real-world, tangible enterprise born from a personal ideology.

After a proper investigation of the petitioner, or a reflective moment on a current member and their ideological alignments–we get an objective view of where they stand in the geography of the moral landscape.

These ideologies live in the minds of humans, and in many cases are secret. The secret beliefs of men, held within the prisons of their own minds are often due to an intrinsic shame, or perhaps a general fear that the beliefs they hold are such of a minority opinion, they'll be looked at as a pariah. There’s even a chance that by the extolling of one's personal ideologies they will be accused of one or more of the many deadly sins of the 21st century–forever labeled in a pejorative manner. They will forever be tormented–or “canceled.”

Men today belong to many organizations who may not have anything to hold against Freemasonry, however, should we be now concerned enough to ask whether or not a person is a member of an organization to which Freemasonry is incompatible? Organizations that hold values, beliefs, or practices that are antithetical to what our Craft teaches? Contrarily, flipping the tables as it were. Are there such organizations? Are there such ideological beliefs that are in fact, incompatible with membership in this gentle Craft?

Antifa? The Klu Klux Klan? The Proud Boys? QAnon? While we may answer unequivocally that one could not reconcile Freemasonry and any of the aforementioned groups–the fact remains that we have members within our organization that do belong to these schemes. Not only this, they financially back these organizations (while complaining about Lodge dues, mind you.) They share articles and disinformation on social media networks, attack ideologies that are contrary to theirs, and criticize all of the principles counter to their beliefs.

The organizations mentioned above are just that–organizations of peoples bound together by beliefs in particular ideals or shared goals. But what about religious beliefs? Are their religions that teach their truths that are also misaligned with what the Craft teaches? And staying with the theme of this article, and using the same mindfulness we’re talking about in respect to morality and compatibility–shouldn't it apply to religions as well? It is an ideology, after all.

It's often assumed and said that “It's common to respect others’ beliefs”. Borrowing from another famous quote, “respect is earned, not given”, which is actually part of a larger quote from Pakistani Beggar King Hussein Nishah, “Treat people the way you want to be treated. Talk to people the way you want to be talked to. Respect is earned, not given.” Respecting one's religious and political beliefs is certainly common happenstance, so long as they fall within cultural norms (which are always evolving), or to extend that for this piece, the tenets of Freemasonry–the Progressive Moral Science.

This is nothing more than a distraction from the original argument. The answer is of course, yes, everyone is entitled to their own particular beliefs. We are not, however, required to respect them. These two things are mutually exclusive, I can respect your right to your own opinion while at the same time not having to respect it. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and as outlined above, while we have freedom of speech, that speech can have consequences. Say or support speech that is unbecoming of a Mason, and you’re likely to be reminded of your error.

The question remains, if we don't respect the beliefs of a brother who is a racist or a bigot, are we the problem? Or– should we tell it like it is and remove them from our ranks? Or, do as we have always done, let sleeping dogs lie–which brings us to the subject of consequence. The consequences of allowing behaviors of the groups mentioned above as acceptable or even compatible with Freemasonry will be seen by the public, by the prospective membership, as weak, unintellectual, antiquated, irrelevant, anti-progressive. Maybe even disgusting. In other words–it will be the death of the institution.

Let’s remember that no matter how good someone's ritual is, no matter how many times they were there for the lodge, or how much they donated–it doesn’t make them a good person.

Is Freemasonry to be the home of good men attempting to become better? And can you be a racist or a bigot as a member who is trying to become better by being a Freemason? Or should we just bar all racists and bigots from entering from the beginning; solving the problem at its core with small wins coming from the deaths of those bigots and racists who made it past the West-Gate, to begin with? As is often suggested by our Masonic forefathers, perhaps recentering ourselves, recommitting to what the Craft demands of us in principle--to "try Freemasonry" is all we need to do...

Defining Principals or Mission Statements of note:

Freemasonry - (Varies from state to state.)
To promote a way of life that binds like-minded men in a worldwide brotherhood that transcends all religious, ethnic, cultural, social, and educational differences; by teaching the great principles of brotherly love, relief, and truth; and, by the outward expression of these through its fellowship, to find ways in which to serve God, family, country, neighbors, and self. (Taken from Reading Lodge No. 254, CA).

The above description of Freemasonry certainly doesn't square with any of the descriptions below. As such, anyone identifying with such groups, should not be allowed into our fraternity.

Antifa is a decentralized, leaderless movement composed of loose collections of groups, networks, and individuals. Antifa's professed purpose is to vigorously oppose fascism. Antifa adherents focus on countering right-wing extremists both online and on the ground. Antifa’s presence at protests is intended to intimidate and deter racists, but the use of violent measures by some militant Antifa adherents against their adversaries can create a vicious, self-defeating cycle of attacks, counterattacks, and blame. (Taken from ADL.org)

The Klu Klux Klan-
A white southern resistance to the Republican Party’s reconstruction-era policies aimed at establishing political and economic equality for Black Americans. Its members waged an underground campaign of intimidation and violence directed at white and Black Republican leaders. Though Congress passed legislation designed to curb Klan terrorism, the organization saw its primary goal–the reestablishment of white supremacy–fulfilled through Democratic victories in state legislatures across the South in the 1870s. (Taken from History.com)

The Proud Boys-
The Proud Boys are a right-wing extremist group with a violent agenda. They are primarily misogynistic, Islamophobic, transphobic, and anti-immigration. Some members espouse white supremacist and antisemitic ideologies and/or engage with white supremacist groups. Public rallies and protests. Members have been known to engage in violent tactics; several members have been convicted of violent crimes. Proud Boys members accounted for one of the highest number of extremist arrestees in relation to the Jan 6 insurrection. In 2021, Proud Boys latched on to anti-mask and anti-vaccine activism, showing up at school board meetings as well as related protests and rallies. (Taken from ADL.org)

An American far-right political conspiracy theory and movement centered on false claims made by an anonymous individual or individuals, known by the name "Q", that a cabal of Satanic, cannibalistic pedophiles operate a global child sex trafficking ring that conspired against the former U.S. President Donald Trump during his term in office. Experts have described QAnon as a cult. (Taken from Wikipedia)

RWB Johnson is a Co-Managing Editor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He is a Freemason out of the 2nd N.E. District of Illinois. He currently serves as the Secretary of Spes Novum Lodge No. 1183. He is a Past Master of Waukegan Lodge 78 and a Past District Deputy Grand Master for the 1st N.E. District of Illinois. He is the current V:. Sovereign Grand Inspector for AMD in IL. Brother Johnson currently produces and hosts weekly Podcasts (internet radio programs) Whence Came You? & Masonic Radio Theatre which focuses on topics relating to Freemasonry. He is also a co-host of The Masonic Roundtable, a Masonic talk show. He is a husband and father of four, works full time in the executive medical industry. He is the co-author of "It's Business Time - Adapting a Corporate Path for Freemasonry", “The Master’s Word: A Short Treatise on the Word, the Light, and the Self – Annotated Edition” and author of "How to Charter a Lodge: A No-Nonsense, Unsanctioned Guide. More books are on the way. Visit www.thecivicfreemason.com for more

WBro Kevin Homan was Raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason in August of 2007 at Olive Branch Lodge No. 114 in Leesburg, VA., and since then, has like many Masons, involved himself in more and more bodies. In addition to being a Past Master of Olive Branch Lodge, Kevin is a member of Potomac Chapter No. 88, RAM, currently serves as the Eminent Commander of Piedmont Commandery No. 26 and the Alexandria Scottish Rite Bodies. Additionally, Bro Kevin is a member of several of the York RIte invitational Bodies.

Bro Homan has been married to his wife Hillary for the past ten years and they have three wonderful (mostly) children. When he’s not doing something with his family or the Lodge Kevin enjoys a good glass of Scotch, the occasional cigar, and reading a good book in his office, which “smells of leather-bound books and rich mahogany”.

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 (www.masonicrestoration.com)  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.; https://www.masonicrestorationfoundation.org,; www.enlightenmentLodge.com; 

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 darin.lahners@gmail.com.