A Masonic Answer to Incivility

by Midnight Freemasons Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners

Following the uproar caused by a certain incident that occurred during the telecast of the Academy Awards ceremony, Bro. Alex G. Powers asked the Kansas Freemasonry Facebook Group, the following: "If there is a Masonic conversation to come from the actions observed at the Oscars last night, it makes me think about subduing one’s passions. We are all human and sometimes things make us see red in the moment that may be debatable in all directions by everyone else. As a Mason, is it appropriate to sometimes give in and act out of passion?" 
The responses were varied, including my own answer: "Is it appropriate to sometimes give in and act out of passion as a Freemason? According to our teachings, no. In practice, Man, I see that happen every day on social media. We're human right? We've all been guilty of "losing our cool" at one time or another. So we can in retrospect look at this incident and say: "Oh, I'd never do that!" or "He should have whispered wise counsel", yet I see far worse exchanges on social media among brothers every day. Where's the outcry or wise counsel when that happens?"

In my mind, what happened on Sunday evening was borne out of incivility and both parties are at fault.  Many people are choosing sides and defending one party while deriding the other.  What is troubling to me is that violence has become an accepted response to dealing with incivility.  

The more I examined this thought, the more I contemplated a recent presentation I had given at Homer Lodge No. 199's last stated meeting, entitled: A Loss of Civility in America: A Masonic Reaction.  The presentation was borne out of a few things: 
1. The wonderful work the MWB Russ Charvonia has done with his Masonic Family Civility Project(https://www.masoniccivility.org/).
2. The goal of my Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282 to develop a presentation that could be used by other members of the Chapter to help promote Civility to the members of their home Masonic Lodges. 
3. The overall continued lack of civility in today's society and the need for us to set the example as Freemasons.

The question remains, How can we as Freemasons respond to incivility?  In my mind, there are a few major things we can do.  First and foremost, we should not be the cause of incivility ourselves.  As I mentioned above, I see far worse uncivil exchanges on social media between brethren than what occurred this past Sunday evening. While our obligations may discuss specific things we should not do to another Master Mason; namely striking except in defense of his person, family, or property, cheating, wronging, defrauding, and supplanting him in his laudable undertakings; we're not really enforcing the penalties of the obligation against those that violate them.  So in this case, when we are witnessing incivility, either online or in the real world, what should we do?

I think first and foremost, as Freemasons, we need to be self-aware.  This means that we need to make a personal commitment to be more civil.  To practice this, we need to be aware of our own actions and how we communicate with others.  We also need to be patient.  A good way to visualize this would be to think about the circumpunct or the point within the circle. Imagine we are that point, and the circle is our sphere of influence.  If we go outside of the sphere, our influence is going to be small or non-existent.  However, within the sphere, our actions and our words will be taken seriously or at face value.  We also need to remember to breathe and subdue our passions before reacting in all situations.  Square ourselves, circumscribe ourselves to stay within due bounds and use the trowel to apply the cement of brotherly love even if we are the ones that are being treated uncivilly.   

Secondly, we need to think the best of others.  While there may be many people that get off by being an online troll, there's a pretty good chance that if we encounter incivility, it is due to a misunderstanding or lack of awareness of the situation.  Many people become uncivil when they feel they have been disrespected, marginalized,  or wronged.  However, we need to try to remind both parties involved in the incivility that they most likely have more in common than they realize.  

All of this depends on the situation.  If you witness something online, your response will be different than it might be in public.  You might also be able to gain more insight online by reading the exchange back to where the incivility began.  In public, it will depend on if you were there at the beginning of it or if you just happened upon it.  Gather as much information as you can about the cause of the incivility.    

The best thing you can do is to calmly engage the parties in civil discourse and remind them of their commonality.  If you think it's possible, then you can say something like, "I remember when my kids got into a similar argument..do you have kids?", getting them to focus on what they have in common will most likely de-escalate the situation.  This should be easy if you encounter some Masonic brothers being uncivil towards each other.  Remind them about Brotherly Love, their obligations, and ask them to remember that they should be meeting on the level, acting by the plumb and parting upon the square.  You can tell them it's okay if they disagree, but that it's not okay to be uncivil towards each other.  However, take action!

What else can you do?  Educate yourself, especially on viewpoints that are opposite to yours.  What this will do is it will allow you to be better prepared to find those commonalities that exist in times of incivility. Also, you can encourage others within your sphere of influence to practice civility by asking them to follow the below 31-day civility challenge. 

Remember, most people do not make a conscious decision to be uncivil. Being uncivil takes no conscious effort at all. It just happens because one is unable to subdue their passions. Civility, especially in the heat of the moment, takes effort. But if we apply our working tools, it can become part of who we are. Guess what? Because civility doesn't seem to happen as much as it should, it will get noticed.  If we can serve as an example in our communities, then we can be a force for change and hopefully an example for others to follow.   


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.  

The Simplest of Things

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Randy Sanders

A few evenings ago I asked my wife how she might like her dinner prepared.  I purchased a few fillets of a nice white ocean fish, which although good didn’t have much flavor.  She suggested garlic, salt, and pepper marinade, which over a 4 hour period was absolutely perfect for those fillets then paired with rice and mixed vegetables.  Over the past year, I moved away from my expensive pellet grill back to an old heavy steel charcoal barrel-style grill.  The very basic charcoal along with a simple rub produces results just not attainable with pellet or gas grills.  I’m not giving up on a good complex sauce to accompany a perfectly cooked pasta or changing up my often gourmet seasonings for different cultural nuances.  Rather, I rediscovered an experience.  In and of itself, the changes seem innocuous enough, but I see it as a trend in my life as I rethink the complexities of not just cooking but everything, even Freemasonry. 

Part of this stems from an exercise performed in the Winter of 2020 and again recently in Winter 2022 at the Scottish Rite’s Academy Of Reflection Winter Contemplative Retreat.  One of the exercises in the retreat is to eat in silence, slowly, and going back to simplicity by focusing on the food, process of eating, and what that means to you.  I found it to be stimulating as I considered the flavors and textures of the basic meals we enjoyed together in silence.  

The lesson was partially lost on me for a time as we entered the COVID pandemic years, and I rediscovered the beauty of the exercise in the 2022 retreat.  Then came the realization of how simplicity extends to all facets of my life.  My realization of this came with the additional realization that I had already begun doing this exercise in other areas of my life.  Unknowingly, I returned to basic cooking techniques.  At work, I returned to questioning everything, asking why processes existed, and cutting out meetings, and with Freemasonry, I must admit to the same.

Cutting out meetings?  But, your obligations!

Brothers, I continue to promote a healthy Masonic fraternity.  I respect my blue lodge and appendant bodies, and I am committed to helping them in every way possible.  Did I mention convenient?  No?  I do mean any way possible.  My cable-tow doesn’t end just because some meeting is inconvenient. However, let’s strip away the superfluities, the processes, the pageantry.  When we get down to it, what am I contributing, except dues, to any one organization?  

If the answer is “nothing”, then it’s time to think about what you can offer.  What value can you bring to the table?  There is always an answer of yes.  There’s always value you bring.  The craft needs you, but you may not realize your own worth so keep it simple.  Contribute in small ways then worry later about contributing in larger ways.  Find the things you love and bring those things you love to the craft rather than trying to be something you aren’t.  We meditate for a deeper meaning to “who am I” and “why am I here” when the question may be as simple as “I’m good at landscaping, so maybe I can help the lodge building look better?” or, “if I attend this meeting I considered skipping, can I find a means to contribute while enjoying the fellowship of Brethren?”  And my favorite: “I may not be the best at ritual, but I can do a silent part when needed.”

It's the simplest of things.


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.

Danny Thomas: Freemason and Humanitarian

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

Danny Thomas (1912 – 1991), a member of Gothic Lodge 270 in Hamilton Square, New Jersey, was an American nightclub entertainer, television star, and producer. Born Amos Muzyad Yakhoob Kairouz, Brother Thomas was best known for his role in the television show "Make Room for Daddy."  A devout Roman Catholic, Brother Thomas was also an avid golfer with a handicap of ten, one of the original owners of the Miami Dolphins, the sponsor of two PGA tour tournaments, and the first non-Jewish member of Hillcrest country club in Los Angeles.

 Creating an American Icon

It's a little-known fact that in a 1960 episode of his TV show, Thomas was inadvertently responsible for creating an American icon.  In that episode, a country-bumpkin sheriff stopped Thomas' character for speeding.  The plot followed Thomas' trials and tribulations while dealing with the small-town sheriff, who was also the town judge and newspaper editor.  That popular episode turned out to be a pilot for one of TV's most enduring series, "The Andy Griffith Show." It featured the exploits of that country sheriff. Griffith was not a Freemason, but held the Fraternity in high regard and actually got his comedic start playing summers at the Dare County Shrine Club in North Carolina. 

His Daughter "That Girl"

Brother Thomas also helped his daughter, Marlo, get started in her acting career in the situation comedy "That Girl." In it, Marlo portrayed a young woman on her own in New York. The show is recognized as the first television series to feature an independent single working woman. In 1969, Thomas made a cameo appearance on it playing a priest. In his only scene, his daughter bumps into him and says, "Excuse me, Father." Danny replies, "That's all right, my child." Many did not get the inside joke.

Doing a "Danny Thomas"

Thomas' comedic trademark was the spit-take. On many occasions on his situation comedy and also other shows, Thomas could be seen taking a drink and then reacting to something another character said by spraying the drink out of his mouth. Some even credit Thomas with inventing the spit-take. While that is not accurate he certainly was the comedian who perfected it. In fact, during his time, a spit-take from any character became known as "doing a Danny Thomas."

His Greatest Accomplishment

In 1962, Thomas founded St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, based on the premise that "no child should die in the dawn of life." The hospital today is one of the premier institutions for children's health care, treating children with all forms of cancer and other devastating diseases. Its operating expenditures amount to nearly $3 million per day, but no patient is charged for the services it provides. Among his many professional and humanitarian successes, St. Jude's is considered to be Brother Thomas' most important accomplishment.

Brother Thomas was also a member of the Scottish Rite and Al Malaikah Shrine in Los Angeles.  He received the Congressional Gold Medal and in 2012, the US Postal Service honored him by issuing a "Forever" stamp recognizing his humanitarian accomplishments.

He died in Los Angeles on February 6, 1991, of heart failure.  Just two days before that, the 79-year-old entertainer had filmed a commercial to celebrate St. Jude's 29th anniversary.  The commercial aired after his death.  He is buried on the hospital's grounds in Memphis, Tennessee.


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.

The War In Ukraine - A Personal Perspective

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor

Alžběta Týblová

On March 14 at Liberty Lodge #31, Alžběta 'Bety' Týblová, a Liberty High School exchange student from Prague, gave a moving account of her family and friends' experiences in Ukraine. Pictured left to right are lodge Master Rod Guzman, Bety, and her sponsoring family Randy, Linda, and Zachary Hicks.

 Editor's Note: Alžběta 'Bety' Týblová is an 18 year old exchange student studying at Liberty High School near Kansas City for the current school year. Brother Randy Hicks, a member of Liberty Lodge 31, is her sponsor. Bety lives in Prague and has close ties to family and friends who are now under siege in Ukraine. Last week at Liberty lodge she gave a moving and personal account of her family and friends' experiences with the devastating war raging next door to her home. The text of her remarks to the Brothers of the lodge follows.

Hello, my name is Bety Tyblova, I am an exchange student from the Czech Republic staying here in America for the school year with the Hicks family. My host father, Randy, suggested I speak in this venue to try and convey my perspective of the current conflict between Ukraine and Russia and I am grateful for the opportunity to talk about this with you this evening. 


First of all, I would like to emphasize that I am not here to tell you why the conflict is happening. Only one person, Vladimir Putin, can answer that question for you and I don’t think there’s any real right answer as to why Russia has attacked the democratic sovereignty of the Ukraine. I cannot see into Putin’s mind, so I cannot tell you why he has decided to destroy innocent, free people’s lives. My goal this evening is to help you understand the European perspective on this war. I hope you will have grace because as an 18-year-old girl, there’s no way I can convey all of the hurt, pain, and fear felt across Europe in this crisis, but I hope that I can appeal to your empathy and compassion to emphasize how vital this conflict is not only to my country and to myself, but to everyone in this room. I am here to help you understand that what you read every day in the newspaper about Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is real, and it is happening to real people, thousands of them, at this very moment. I am here to show you how this situation is perceived by someone who is not Ukrainian or Russian, but who is also not American. First and foremost, I want to make it very clear that it is not the Russian people who are to blame for everything that is happening in Eastern Europe right now. The blame falls on one man, and one man alone, and that man is Vladimir Putin. He alone is responsible for the bloodshed, the blood of innocent citizens in Ukraine but also that of Russian soldiers who were unknowingly sent to war. Most Russian soldiers have no idea that they are at war; they have been told that they are only going to practice, or that they are going to “liberate” Ukraine. Shortly after the invasion of Ukraine, the Ukrainian army captured two Russian soldiers, the first of the war, who said that they had no idea that they were at war, why the Ukrainians had captured them. They had run out of gas in their vehicle on their way to Ukraine, and the unsuspecting soldiers came to ask the Ukrainian police if they had gas to spare. Both individuals were arrested immediately. It is crucial that you understand that these men did not know the game their autocratic leader was playing. It was not their decision to invade, and they did not do so willingly or knowingly. Please, do not blame the Russian people or Russian soldiers for their unknowing participation in this travesty against human life. This is the deranged mind of one autocrat, Putin, laying fear and travesty at the doorstep of innocent people on both sides.

My country is lucky to be a member of NATO and the European Union. I am grateful for the strong allies we have in Europe because without membership in the North Atlantic Alliance, it is possible that my country would be part of the war right now. While we are separate from Ukraine and Russia, and perhaps you are finding it odd that I am speaking on the issue to you here tonight as a citizen of an independent state, but we are not far from all that is going on. The Czech Republic is 242 miles from Ukraine. This is a 3 and a half hour car ride; just about the distance from here to St. Louis. Not only do we draw raw material from Ukraine, but it is common that the people in Europe travel to neighboring countries, much like you might visit Kansas or Arkansas over the weekend. As a result, some of my closest friends are Ukrainian and/or Russian. This is why this topic is so important to me and why I need to talk to you tonight. This is territory I know, territory my family has been many times. At this time, it is heartbreaking to me that I cannot do much to help, but even more so, I cannot be with them. I can’t be the emotional and mental support that they need now more than ever. The only thing I can do is to help inform you, and bring the situation closer to people who only see the conflict via TV and newspapers. To remind you that these are real people, with lives and families, who are under attack. People I have called friend and family in my life.

A few days after the war started, one of my friends here in Liberty said she couldn’t understand what was going on and why it was such a problem. For those of you who don’t know, Ukraine used to be a part of the Soviet Union. My friend did not understand what the problem was and why they didn’t just rejoin Russia. Since 1991, Ukraine has been an independent country, more than 30 years now. Moreover, Ukraine adopted a democratic framework, and it does not exist under Putin’s communist system. My friend did not understand the significance of the pain, suffering, and heart with which the Ukrainian people lived prior to this time under communist rule, and the relief felt when they were finally freed to exist as their own nation, free to express themselves as part of a democratic society finally released from autocracy and tyranny. What, in this day and age, makes Putin feel he can strip those rights, own these free people once again is beyond me. To put this into the perspective of American history, America was not always a separate state. It did not always look the way it does now, nor did it always enjoy the freedoms of democracy it now does. At one time, America was a colony of England; a then autocratic governance which found value in the ownership of an entire group of people and their land. Imagine that St. Louis was invaded by an autocracy which assumed ownership of you as the American democracy. Regardless of what you had made of your life, a ruler of a completely different country decided that that life belonged to him now. Imagine you are 18, never having even lived under that ruler’s thumb, and you are told that you have 2 options: fight for your home and your family and your friends or be oppressed under the dictatorial rule of another state. I choose to believe that most of you would select option 1, to fight for your rights to live life how you want to live it and--remember Ukraine has been a democracy for 30 years—how your parents and grandparents endured for it to be lived that way. The Ukrainian people chose the same way and they continue to fight for their democracy right now.

Ukraine has been a troubled country for several years. In 2014, the Civil War began, which has lasted until now. There is a brief documentary on this war on Netflix, where everything is summarized in detail and I recommend everyone in this room watch it. It is called Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom for those that are interested. In brief, Putin used this war to invade Ukraine. Putin publicly declared that he wants to “liberate” Ukraine and save them from the political system which they chose when they gained their independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. This is not the first time a Russian leader has claimed something like this. In 1968, Russia invaded the Czech Republic (then Czechoslovakia) claiming the same reasoning. The Czechs did not want to be part of Russia either, but we did not have the strength to defend ourselves so the Russians occupied us, strengthening the authoritarian wing of the communist party of Czechoslovakia. Ukraine has immense heart and bravery, and they are escalating the conflict to avoid the same fate as my country in 1968 which took 23 years to reverse.

As I said, the conflict in Ukraine is not something which just began on February 24th this year. This began when Russia wanted to take back the island of Crimea, a gift from Russia to Ukraine after the end of World War II. Before 2013, however, Russia decided to take back Crimea and declare it Russian territory once more. At that time, not only the civil war in Ukraine began, but also the war between Russia and Ukraine.

The media and television have spoken extensively about this conflict, as I’m sure you’ve either seen or followed. But I also understand that this is a far away issue for many of you. This is not happening on American soil, and thankfully, does not need to. This is thousands and thousands of miles away from your home, from your family, from your friends and neighbors and land; this is another continent. It’s a different world as far as I’m sure many of you are concerned. But I am here from that other continent to tell you about what is happening. I wish I could even do justice to the atrocities that are happening this very second, as I stand here and try to make you understand fully. This hurts for me to have to do. I hurt for my friends and my family that live in Ukraine, for the people I love that are standing on a battlefield right now, afraid that they are living on land that they will die on.

When the war began, the entirety of Europe was talking about it. Here in America, there was nothing. I did not know until I got home from school. The day it began and when the news was first released that Russia had invaded Ukraine, I felt overwhelmingly hopeless. The worst scenarios appeared in front of my eyes. My little sister called me that day, there was despair in her voice as she told me how the news had affected those around her. After a few minutes, the conversation led to a question. “What if it sucks and I never see you again? What if you stay in America so you don’t have to go back to war? What if you stay in America and I never see you?” I didn’t know what to say, because that’s when the situation really hit me. I’m in America now, I’m isolated from it all and I’m separated from it just like you are, thousands of miles away. But the people in Europe, my family, my friends who are part of it know exactly what could happen. My best friend, who has been living in Prague for 5 years, has family in Ukraine. Two weeks before the start of the war, her boyfriend was deported from the Czech Republic to Ukraine due to documentation issues. I can’t even describe in words the pain she exuded when this conflict began and every day, afraid that her boyfriend will go to war and never see him again. She’s afraid when her boyfriend doesn’t text her back within a few minutes. One day she texted me and then called me in tears that her boyfriend hadn’t answered her messages. He hadn’t called since the morning, she didn’t know what was going on, and nor did his friends know where he was. She didn’t hear anything for almost 24 hours. When she did, he apologized for not calling, but he had spent the day digging trenches in his backyard for his family in case Russian troops invaded their village. Teenagers here just can’t fathom this kind of anxiety, this kind of fear right now. This was not the kind of anxiety that perhaps your daughter has felt when her boyfriend doesn’t respond to her texts—“is he off with some girl? Is he ignoring me? Does he not like me anymore?”—this is the kind of fear a girl feels when her boyfriend very well might be in hiding from the Russian army or, God forbid, dead. There are hundreds of stories like this, many translated on the Internet and accessible to you. These are the stories of strangers to you, but these people are part of my life, part of my home, and while these may be strangers experiencing a war to you, this is my family and friends’ reality. This is my reality. I hear from my friends and family how they fight for their friends, but also about how their fathers went to war, how family Members died, how they left their hometowns and homes, and they hope that that will eventually allow them to escape. These are people, in a town of the same development as St. Louis or Kansas City, who are seeing their homes flattened, their lives destroyed, everything they hold dear ruined by artillery, because of the whims of one man. They do not know if they can leave the country, or what they will even do if they do leave the country. The only possible way out is via the Slovak Republic, the other Ukrainian borders are occupied by Russian tanks and the way is impossible. Buses that supply basic necessities for Ukrainian refugees are gathering on the Slovak border, or buses that are waiting to be filled by Ukrainians who have crossed the Russian border and then will be taken to larger cities by Slovakians. But then what? Alone, in a foreign country with a foreign language, without anything, by themselves, and only the money and belongings they could carry with them. All they can do is pray. And fight.

This is difficult for me to talk about with you. They are real stories, real people I know personally. I saw some of them just a few months ago. And now all I hear are their frightened voices. And now, every night, I read the newspaper to see what happened, how the day went, what threatens my family and friends. I have to wake up every day, go to school, and live my life, just like my friends and family in the Czech Republic. People are dying. To my friends at school here, this is just newspaper headlines, just words. But these are real people and they are really dying. Their lives are really being destroyed. Their churches, their hospitals, their schools, their grocery stores. Flattened, without a second thought, without remorse, by one aggressive man. Here people laugh and live their lives as if nothing is happening. I am not, of course, saying everyone should suspend their lives and live only in the pain and misery of Ukraine, but I think we need help. I can’t tell you 100% the right thing to do to help, but by sending money to organizations to help Ukraine, for example, I think that we can help make a difference. They need it more than we do right now. I found a couple American organizations that have fundraising opportunities to support Ukraine. Beyond that, I hope you’ll join me and my host father in prayer for the families and people of Ukraine right now as they experience war in their backyards. Thank you.


A Contemplative Winter Retreat

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Randy Sanders

The last 50 miles were brutal.  Not because of the 8-hour drive, but because I was giddy with anticipation.  I hadn’t seen my Brothers for too long, and the excitement continued to build all week leading up to the retreat.  I stopped in Tulsa for an overdue lunch with my brother, and we feasted on some of the best Oklahoma-style hamburgers to be found outside your own backyard grill.  It was an excellent visit, but it was time to hit the road again for that last 100-mile stretch to Guthrie.

And there it was.  I rounded the familiar corners in Guthrie to see the magnificent view of the Guthrie Scottish Rite Temple.  I wasn’t the first to arrive, and it took a few minutes to connect and coordinate with those who arrived before me.  After some room setup and kitchen logistics, most of us gathered at a local restaurant for an excellent feast of food, fellowship, and joy.  Afterward, the last of the arrivals were settled without incident into the apartments, or sleeping rooms, onsite in the Temple, and we made our way to the absolutely gorgeous Assyrian Room which we used as our primary gathering place for the weekend.

We were just under a dozen, and it was a good number.  A Brother from Canada became our first international attendee, and we all bonded in a manner difficult to describe but obvious in experience.  Brother instructors Chuck and Doug described the weekend, the process, and the meditations.  As Clerk, my duties included rolling through the logistics and site operations.  I always feel I talk too much, and then the follow-up Q&A tells me I should have detailed another couple of minutes.  Excellent questions, hopefully, I did them justice with my answers.

As the session ended Friday night, we took our weekend vows of silence knowing it wouldn’t be lifted for almost 36 hours except for one break.  We made previous arrangements to call my cell phone for any emergencies, and all but my cell phone were turned off for the weekend.  Yeah, it was scary for many, and for me too.  My own personal vow was to only check the phone for inbound calls so I disconnected too.  It was time to focus inwardly and begin contemplating, well everything, until lights out at midnight.  The next morning, I awakened everyone by the ringing of the bell (a beautiful singing bowl) and began our first of several challenges.  First was the gathering for breakfast, which seems easy enough until you remember to try to stay silent and avoid most eye contact.  One of the weekend’s several lessons included a quiet focus on meals.  That is, eating slowly, in silence, considering everything you can about your meal.  When I first attended the retreat, I was initially put off by the process as we didn’t begin with a prayer.  As Freemasons, don’t we begin everything with an invocation of blessing by Deity?  It took me a couple of meals to realize I was already in communion with Deity, constantly, and someone else saying a group prayer was nice but unnecessary so long as I maintained my own prayers.  That lesson I continue today.  It was my lesson in focus, maintaining simplicity, and focusing on just quietly tuning into, or listening, for Deity.

A Brother experienced the annoyance of being locked out of the apartment he chose.  The locks are meant to be taped-over thereby disabled, but Oklahoma’s Grand Lodge recently held session in the building, and ladies had been using the apartments to change clothes.  Some door tape had been removed and unfortunately caught us off guard.  Although we tried as best we could to gain entrance, we determined we could not without causing damage to the door or frame.  The locked-out Brother adapted and used the experience as a different kind of contemplative exercise.  Saturday morning I (yes, I had to break silence) contacted the Temple staff who dispatched a Brother who does Temple maintenance.  It happened in such a manner that I don’t know if anyone witnessed it but myself, which is a happy dance because we didn’t disturb the attendees or instructors who were in an early morning quiet time of self-contemplation.  The lock was opened, and the situation was rectified.

We meditated.  We did group sessions.  We did private sessions with instructors.  We made good use of the time spent.  Can I describe it?  Maybe in 100 pages, but no, not really.  Would I recommend it?  Let’s just say I’ve already cleared next year’s retreat with my wife, even if the 16 hours of driving time was a bit brutal for one weekend.  I found some answers to some questions that had been bugging me, and I found a few more questions for which I don’t yet have answers.  I realized a lesson in simplicity that had been at the periphery of my mind for a couple of years, and I refocused on my own coursework within the Academy.  What surprised me was the new and deeper respect I found for our instructors.  Don’t get me wrong, I already thought they were all fantastic, but this weekend deepened that view and gave insight into the work and sacrifice Brother instructors Chuck, Doug, Bob, and Tom make for us.

Our short dozen barely spoke to each other for the vast majority of the weekend, yet we bonded in friendship and fellowship in the deepest of ways.  As we cleaned the Temple behind us, packed the cars, and said our goodbyes, the emotions were deep.  This year too, I spent the majority of my drive home in silence, simply thinking of what had happened and already looking forward to the Academy Of Reflection’s next meetings and the Summer Social.


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.

The Guttural

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners

Many of you may have at some point in your life found yourself in a similar situation to one I had recovered from recently. On November 27, 2018, I had to have my tonsils removed. I'm a 45 year old man. When I wrote this, I was twelve days post-surgery and my throat was still hoarse and sore. As is often the case with me during times in my life where I need guidance, I turn to the lessons taught to us during our degrees. In the first degree, we are taught, “to be able to make yourself known among other Masons by certain signs, a token, a word and the points of your entrance which are four: the guttural, the pectoral, the manual and the pedal. These four points allude to the four cardinal virtues: Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence and Justice.

We are further taught that “Temperance is that due restraint upon affections and passions which renders the body tame and governable, and frees the mind from the allurements of vice.” It is stressed to us that this virtue, “should be the constant practice of every Mason, as he is thereby taught to avoid excess, or the contracting of any licentious or vicious habit, the indulgence in which might lead him to disclose some of those valuable secrets which he has promised to conceal and never reveal, and which would consequently subject him to the contempt and detestation of all good Masons, if not to the penalty of our obligation, which alludes to the guttural.

What is the guttural? From the Latin: “guttur”, meaning throat, literally meaning,“of the throat”. It’s a term usually reserved for sounds which are particularly harsh or grating. Because the throat is the entrance way through which vice, (alcohol, tobacco, food) enters the body, that this would be why temperance is associated with the guttural. Allowing such vice to influence a Mason’s behavior would inevitably lead to the possibility of giving up the secrets of the Craft via a loose tongue. The old saying, "Loose lips sink ships." comes to mind. However, In this day and age, it would be as easy to write down the secrets (using the manual) on a form of Social Media, and press enter. To complicate matters, the attachment of the four cardinal virtues to the “perfect” points of entrance didn’t occur in the ritual until the mid-1800’s. So why then is the guttural so important to our Craft?

While thinking about it and beginning to research why temperance would be associated with the guttural, I came across something that I never thought about. Operative Masons (at least in Ireland), had their own secret language (https://www.jstor.org/stable/534860?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents). 

Called “Bearla lagair”, it was an artificial or technical jargon or gibberish used by Masons. Furthermore, in Ireland, this language was traced back to a character named Goban Saor or Goban Saer (Gobban the Builder). He is regarded in traditional Irish Folklore as originating in the 7th Century, as one of the Tuath De’ (Tribe of the Gods), who are a supernatural race in Irish Mythology. According to myth, Goban forged their lethal weapons and brewed their magical elixirs of invincibility. (Hmmm, does this archetype of a master instructor in metallurgy sound familiar?) Historically – he is thought of as the builder/founder of many churches in Ireland and was canonized as St. Gobhan for his works. The canonization of Pagan gods was common during the early spread of the Roman Catholic Church, as many local pagan gods would become Saints in order to ease the transition from the Pagan religions to the Catholic one, and this is most likely the case with St. Gobhan.

In any case, the knowledge of this secret mason’s talk was known by many throughout Ireland. Like our degree system, apprentices obtained “papers” from the master-mason, and an increase of wages with each paper. The third paper (or third degree as we might think of it), was called an indenture. No apprentice would be entitled to this until he was able to speak the Bearla lagair. They were forbidden to teach it any one not a mason, even to the members of their own family. They also had secret signs, methods of handling their working tools, ways of pointing, smoothing and laying mortar which would also identify them, but only the other member of their craft would pick up on these things. To the non-mason, it would have been their cryptic language which identified them as free-masons.

This being said, the points of one entrance can be thought of the precise moment that a candidate for initiation enters the lodge, or the entire ceremony of initiation. The first thing a candidate does after knocking three times on the door from the preparation room to the lodge room is to use his voice to answer a question. Without the guttural, he would never be able to enter to lodge room. As only a man who affirms that he is entering of his own free will and accord can become a Freemason. Yes, a candidate needs to use his voice to repeat his obligation, and the penalty of the obligation of the Entered Apprentice impacts the guttural, but at this point, the candidate has already vocally affirmed four times that he is entering the lodge and wanting to receive the rights and benefits of Freemasonry. It is at the point of entry, where they affirm that they are joining without being asked, invited, solicited or pressured to join.

This is also one of the most powerful arguments that one can use when Freemasonry is accused of being a religion. The custom of most religious groups is to urge people to join their religion. They proselytize actively, and during certain points in history, have persecuted people who are not of their religion. Freemasonry does no such thing. Albert Mackey when commenting on a man coming to Freemasonry of his own free-will and accord said: "This is a settled landmark of the Order," but, he did not include this ‘settled landmark’ among his list of Landmarks for some reason. In his article on Proselytism, He states; “Freemasonry is rigorously opposed to proselytism.” And follows: “Nay, it boasts as a peculiar beauty of its system, that it is a voluntary institution.” We accept men of all religious backgrounds, and allow them a forum to meet and enjoy fellowship with other men who might believe in a God that is not their own. But they must seek out us out.

Furthermore, if a Man was to join due to pressure from his father, brother, uncle, friend; and left it might result in a family argument, or a lost friendship. Mackey states that coming of our own free-will and accord means that Freemasonry is truly a voluntary association of men, and that this is where the saying ‘Once a Freemason always a Freemason’ comes from, and has meaning. This is what in my humble opinion ultimately unites us as a Fraternity. Each of us, who have stood at the door of the preparation room have answered affirmatively that we are joining of our own free will and accord by using the guttural. 


WB Darin A. Lahners is the Worshipful Master of St. Joseph Lodge No.970 in St. Joseph and a plural member of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), and Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL). He’s a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, a charter member of the new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282, and is the current Secretary of the Illini High Twelve Club No. 768 in Champaign – Urbana (IL). He is also a member of the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees. You can reach him by email at darin.lahners@gmail.com.

St. Patrick's Day and Freemasonry

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

Every school kid learns March 17 is the day we celebrate the life and deeds of  Maewyn Succat, the second Bishop of Ireland, who is better known as Ireland's Patron Saint, St. Patrick.  Those same school kids also learn Patrick's great triumph was chasing the snakes out of Ireland.  It's true, there are no snakes in Ireland; however, that's more likely because there have never been any snakes on the isolated island.   

Captured and taken into slavery as a youth, Maewyn, a.k.a. Patrick, escaped to the European mainland.  While a slave he had converted from paganism to Christianity, and once on the continent, he sought refuge at Marmoutier Abbey, a French monastery.  There, he accepted his calling, which was to convert other pagans to Christianity.  With that, he returned to Ireland and became very successful at making those conversions.  In a manner of speaking, the "serpents" he figuratively chased from Ireland were the pagan Druids, not actual reptiles.

After a successful ministry, Patrick retired to County Down, where he died on  March 17, 461 A.D.  Although never officially canonized by the Catholic Church he is, in fact, recognized as a saint; and today we celebrate the Feast of St. Patrick, or St. Patrick's Day, on the anniversary of his death.

However, even in Ireland prior to the late 18th century, St. Patrick's Day was not that big of a deal.  The same was true in North America, where the churches in Boston, with its large Irish population, didn't recognize the day until 1737.

"So, what," you may ask, "does this have to do with the Freemasons?" 

About twenty years later, during the French-Indian War, a young Masonic Colonel recognized the morale among his troops was low and decided they needed what today we would call some "down time."  It was March, at the end of a long, brutal winter and many of the troops were Irish.  It didn't take the Colonel long to figure out the best day to declare a general holiday would be St. Patrick's day.

Several years later, that same Freemason, now a general in the American Revolution, faced a very similar problem.  Billeted at Morristown, New Jersey, his troops were discouraged after a long winter of devastating fighting and losses.  On top of that, the preceding winter of 1779-80 was brutally cold.  That General, George Washington, again had many Irish troops under his command and once again he saw the opportunity of celebrating St. Patrick's Day to boost morale.  With that, Washington issued the order giving his troops their first day off in over two years, “The General directs that all fatigue and working parties cease for to-morrow the SEVENTEENTH instant, a day held in particular regard by the people of [Ireland].”

The respite from the ravages of war and winter went over well with the troops, some of whom were said to celebrate with a "hogshead of rum."  Washington is credited with establishing the first instances of a secular celebration of St. Patrick's day, a tradition which caught on and has grown to become a major event today, with the hogshead of rum long replaced by freely flowing green beer.


Steve Harrison, 33° KCCH
, is a Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri. He is the editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine, author of the book Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi, a Fellow of the Missouri Lodge of Research and also its Senior Warden. He is a dual member of Kearney Lodge #311, St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite, Moila Shrine and is a member of the DeMolay Legion of Honor.

The Masonic Philosophy of George Washington

by Midnight Freemasons Contributor
James E. Frey


Freemason George Washington
My Brethren, the subject of Masonry and its connection to the Founding Fathers and the American Revolution has inspired much research and heated debate. The progression of history has accepted the Craft as a mere footnote in the events that lead to the founding of our great nation, when in actuality the Masonic philosophy was a driving force behind the social change of the enlightenment era. Masonry and its rich ideals and virtues changed the social consciousness of the founders to accept social justice not only as inevitability but as a duty they owed to God and the common lot of humanity. They accepted the responsibility of bearing the sword of justice and the torch of destiny and stood strong against the tyranny of kings and monarchs.

The Founding Fathers were really rebelling against the claim of a man that it was the will of God that he is ordained to rule. The Founders saw the darkness of this system, that it was based upon ignorance and fear. Their goal was to lift humanity towards the light of political liberation and democracy, as they also believed it was the will of Deity to institute this change in history. The Grand Lodge of Massachusetts addresses the Masonic influence in the American Revolution when they write to George Washington December 10, 1792.

“A Band of brothers, having always joined the acclamations of their countryman, now testify their respect for the milder virtues which have graced the man. Taught by the precepts of our Society; that we all its members stand upon the level, we venture to assume this station & to approach you with that freedom which diminishes our diffidence without lessening our respect.”

Out of all of the Founding Fathers no man is more revered in American Masonry then George Washington. In fact he was almost dubbed the title Grand Master General, or Grand Master of North America, before he declined as an act of humbleness. Washington has become an almost archetypal figure of the Masonic and American character. He stands as an ideal, a symbol for the courage to fight for freedom and not to accept the whims and dictates of those who claim authority not given to them by the consent of the people. But what were Washington’s true feelings and thoughts on the craft? What were his concerns on the new nation he forged out of steel and bullets? 

Washington was a strong proponent of the Masonic philosophy and how it helped shape his character into the strong leader that we venerate as a champion of liberty. Washington addressed the nature of a true mason when he wrote back to John Cutler, Grand Master of Massachusetts on December 27, 1792.

“Flattering as it may be to the human mind & truly honorable… that the milder virtues of the heart are highly respected by a Society whose liberal principles must be founded in the immutable laws of truth and justice…to enlarge the sphere of social happiness is worthy the benevolent design of a Masonic institution; and it is most fervently to be wished, that the conduct of every member of the fraternity… that discover the principles which actuate them; may tend to convince mankind that the grand object of masonry is to promote the happiness of the human race..”
Washington addressed the philosophical mind state of a mason as being concerned with the virtues of the heart.  A Mason should have a strong sense of compassion and mercy toward his fellow man. We can see this concept echoed in the Masonic teaching of “Charity” and “Relief”. That is it the position of a Mason to relieve the distressed of those who are afflicted by strife and to offer a hand of charity to help those who do not have the needs to stand for themselves. This sphere of social happiness is the sphere in which this philosophy spreads into the national character. Washington also addresses that this sphere must exist upon the backbone of truth and justice. This truth and justice is the foundational belief that all man is created equal. It is not wealth of privilege that creates a higher class of citizens; this was the belief of the world. In the new world the virtues of the individual would be the basis for social esteem. So this sphere of happiness could not exist within the old system of belief and government. So it is the true duty of the Mason to shield the oppressed and stand up for justice and truth. A Mason shall not stand idly by as his fellow man is exploited by the privileged and powerful.

This is the benevolent design of the Masonic institution that American government implemented, that no one could rule without the consent of the ruled.  Those who are self-serving will not exploit us as a people.  A true leader, like a true Mason, is interested in the welfare of others and will stand in defiance of tyranny and injustice. It is these ideals that are instilled into every candidate upon the checkered floor, the nature of both good and evil.  Washington believed that this new form of government by the people for the people was the great social change that Masonry offered the world. It was the great plan implemented that when established would inspire the rest of the world to throw off the chains of monarchy and take up the cause of truth and justice.

Paul Revere another famous American Mason and Founding Father addresses this Masonic plan when he was Grand Master of Massachusetts wrote to Washington, March 21, 1797

“Of these (Masonic teachings) may you partake in all their purity and satisfaction; and we will assure ourselves that your attachment to this social plan will increase; and that under the auspices of your encouragement, assistance and patronage, the Craft will attain its highest ornament, perfection, and praise. And it is our ardent prayer, that when your light shall be no more visible in this earthly temple, you may be raised to the All Perfect Lodge above; be seated on the right of the Supreme Architect of the Universe, and there receive the refreshment your labors merited."

Freemason Paul Revere
Revere discusses how if a man takes in the Masonic teachings in purity and without polluting the truth and universality of it you will understand that this social plan of the Masonic character is assured to be just and true. Revere believed that the Craft would reach its apex of influence when all members adopted this plan to indoctrinate Masonic values into the American character, thus creating a nation of the highest virtue and moral culture. Revere uses Washington as an example of how his Masonic character is a shining beacon of light that we must all adhere to become like.

Washington responded to Revere on April 24, 1797 and further addresses the Masonic character as being selfless in nature. He claims the true reward to the Mason is the betterment of himself through his morality bringing himself and society closer to God. Washington writes.

“No pleasure, except that which results from a consciousness of having, to the utmost of my abilities, discharges, the trusts which have been reposed in me by my Country, can equal the satisfaction I feel from the unequivocated proofs I continually receive of its approbation of my public conduct… my wishes that bounteous Providence will continue to bless and preserve our country in Peace and in the prosperity it has enjoyed, will be warm and sincere; and my attachment to the Society on which we are members will dispose me always to contribute my best endeavors to promote the honor and interest of the Craft.”

In this Washington shows that the American character should be self-sacrificing in its display of justice and charity. He says his fullest reward of all his earthly labors is that the All Seeing Eye of Providence has blessed their endeavors to liberate mankind politically, thus reflecting honor and the interest of the Craft. In this statement he expresses his belief that God has blessed the Masonic agenda of social justice. To establish a new form of government, and that it is the duty of Masonry to aid in the American destiny of the liberation of humanity. This is the proper attitude of the true Mason. To do what is right and strive to benefit others with no hope for monetary value and reward, only that honor be reflected upon the Craft and society profit through God’s will.

So as we look upon the Masonic Character what do we see? From the writings of Revere and Washington we see a man dedicated to serve and protect others. A True Mason understands how the ideals of the Craft can change the character of not only an individual, but also a nation. If the Founding Fathers had not held these virtues and ideals so close to their hearts, in what kind of a nation would we live? Would they have proclaimed themselves rulers to satisfy only their own self-interests? Would they have exploited the people to benefit only themselves? It is a scary thought to think that the American principles could have never existed. But it was the belief of the Founding Fathers that the virtues and ideals of the Masonic institution were a intricate part of the destiny of mankind and the will of God. So when we as Masons lost sight of those truest of virtues, when we join a group for only a lapel pin, or we step outside the length of our obligation, let us remember that the virtues we enact are a central part of God’s plan to liberate mankind from the darkness into the light of individual duty and justice. Let us learn from the example of the Founding Fathers, who resisted all temptation to oppress and exploit, but to remain steadfast to the virtues of the craft and to the obligation that makes good men better.


Part II of this article will be appearing soon on the Midnight Freemasons blog

James E Frey, 32° is a Past Sovereign Prince and current librarian of Valley of Danville AASR. Founder of the R.E.B.I.S Research Society he sits on two Blue Lodge Education committees as well as a guest lecturer on Occultism and Esoteric studies in masonry. He is also a Member of the Oak Lawn York Rite, Medinah Shriners, and Golden Dawn Collegium Spiritu Sancti. He also works as a counselor with emotionally and behaviorally challenged children.