Marching to the Drums

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Randy Sanders

My nephew Ryan and the Broken Arrow, Oklahoma HS for the first time decided to compete in the indoor percussion national competition in Dayton, OH.  Many indoor percussion groups go, few get past the first round, much less past the semi-finals.  The Pride of Broken Arrow High School is the current national champion marching band, and their indoor percussion team is now ranked number 8 in the nation.  Having never taken their percussion team to the national indoor competition, there were a lot of unknowns, a lot of questions, and a lot of faith in the directors to help guide them along the way.  Their first time competing, they made it through prelims, and semi-finals, and continued to improve their score each time through finals.  To color the story a bit, because Broken Arrow won marching band nationals and other competitions, they were immediately placed in “open” which is the toughest competition class.  They didn’t receive any advantage of starting in a lower competitive class and working up, rather the percussion team entered the head-to-head competition with the best of the best.  Pretty cool, and congratulations Ryan. 

If this connects with you on a different level, it is meant to do so.  Let me change the story a bit.  A good person, a champion of character who has proven himself year after year with good, hard work, makes a decision to push himself.  He decides to stretch himself into an unknown journey, or adventure.  He makes a decision to petition a lodge of Master Masons. 

Comparatively to trying out for the marching or sports competition, this person is investigated, or tested, against the principles and foundation of the Lodge by an investigating committee.  The problem of not investigating thoroughly, or testing thoroughly, is a discussion for a different time.  Back to the comparison:  This person may well have been through other initiatic experiences in a college fraternity, maybe the Boy Scouts’ Order of the Arrow, or possibly a different initiatic experience.  Maybe this person has never experienced anything of the kind.  He soon learns the Masonic degrees are different, more expansive, cover a lot more ground with symbolism and depth, and they deeply connect you with the lodge brethren.  

The competitions become personal.  The new Brother learns that practice, and very hard practice at that, is the only way to accomplish the goals of the material world by circumscribing passions and connecting with moral living.  As the Brother progresses, the competitions become more intense as that morality is tested and judged.  Often the Brother misses his own judgment until interactions with family, friends, and coworkers make the results obvious through hindsight and contemplation.  Like the band directors and athletic coaches, the Masonic mentors help shape and guide a new Brother into the fraternity by explaining the ritual, explaining customs, and helping focus the new Brother toward his best personal growth by showing him how to practice morality and circumscription. 

Each of us already became champions simply by following the path, striving to be better every day, practicing, to put in the time to make ourselves better in every respect.  It takes practice time, just like a marching band or sporting team, to improve as a Lodge and as an individual.  Sometimes the team effort requires assisting with the Lodge activities, and we find support within our Lodge or with other Brothers.  Much of our work remains internal, contemplative, and solo practice prevails.  Yet, practice always remains the key.  Consistent practice raises the level of performance, and we obtain the keys to contemplate, to practice, to work in the virtual quarries as Masons to find ourselves and strengthen the internal competition.  Keep on marching, and keep practicing that music!


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.

Reclaiming the Rejected Stone

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Ken JP Stuczynski

In my contemplations, I often think about the Lodge as a representation of my inner being. The physical world is outside, and the only thing that can enter are materials to build my Temple, be it thoughts, commitments, or experiences. The metal tools of the profane can only be applied to such things BEFORE they become part of us. Of course, we don't vet such "visitors" most of the time. We allow socialization, propaganda, and attacks against us of all sorts to seep in. They become a part of us whether we want them to or not. It's too late to work on what might have, should have, or could have been.

After a while, we must establish a refuse pile. Some might say this is our subconscious -- those things we don't want to think about or deal with -- but what if it's more of a storehouse? After all, I have a basement of tools, some of which I may never use, but surprisingly there are times I am glad I didn't throw something away. It could be a scrap of wood, a bent screwdriver that still can pry things, or that odd piece of hardware that just happens to fit a project my wife wants me to do unexpectedly.

And then there's trauma. There's hurt. There are the judgments of when we "weren't good enough", or embarrassed, or just didn't win at a game we invested a lot of emotion and energy into. There are regrets.

What if at least one of those "stones" was crafted by the Great Architect for a purpose we as yet do not know? What if no matter how un-square or unfitting (by our human judgment) a stone is, there's some important place for it anyway? Before raising an arch, you might not comprehend what a Keystone is for. You don't know where it came from or why. Was it a mistake, or part of some Greater plan by someone Greater than ourselves?

What if that time we messed up or were betrayed, or burned with unrequited love, wasn't part of our plan, but part of a plan made for us? What if surviving some terrible thing imbued us with the strength to overcome a hardship later in life? What if our painful times of need made us more charitable to other people's hurt or needs? What if those stones are already holding up arches, making our character better throughout a life that may not be as well-lived without them?

Maybe it's time to go through my rubbish pile, looking for that one stone that is ugly, imperfect, and just plain doesn't make sense. Maybe it's the key to something or someone I need more than I realize. Maybe the pegboard of the soul is G-d's Trestle Board, and it's my job to learn to put everything in its proper place, to figure out what each item is for, or have faith there's a reason for everything. Then when the task comes, I will know where to find the right tools, and the material I planned to reject -- maybe even my very self -- will become a thing of Strength, Wisdom, and Beauty.


Bro. Ken JP Stuczynski is a member of West Seneca Lodge No.1111 and recently served as Master of Ken-Ton Lodge No.1186. As webmaster for NYMasons.Org he is on the Communications and Technology Committees for the Grand Lodge of the State of New York. He is also a Royal Arch Mason and 32nd Degree Scottish Rite Mason, serving his second term as Sovereign Prince of Palmoni Council in the Valley of Buffalo, NMJ. He also coordinates a Downtown Square Club monthly lunch in Buffalo, NY. He and his wife served as Patron and Matron of Pond Chapter No.853 Order of the Eastern Star and considered himself a “Masonic Feminist”.

The Occult Lodge: Part Two

 From Operative to Occult

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. James E. Frey 32° KT, ROS 

In the recent climate of the literary outbreak of novels based on the speculation of Masonry, modern culture has begun to accept the doubtful notion that Masonry is the descendent of the Medieval Knights Templar, or that it is the barren of some shadowy conspiracy bent toward world domination. But this is only a modem interpretation of a climate of speculation Masons of the 1800s concocted in order to give the Masonic system a romanticized history. But it should be noted that overzealous Masons creating a myth that the craft is traced to ancient origins was a common trend among fraternal groups of the era. It was thought that an elaborate myth of historical connections gave the fraternal group legitimacy.

But in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries there was a common theme among Masonic scholars creating a legacy, connecting the craft to a variety of occult groups such as the Rosicrucians, the Essenes, Ancient Egypt, and a variety of other spiritual systems. This was because many of the first members that transformed the Craft from an operative guild into a speculative craft were intellectuals of the Royal Society. These intellectuals were under the influence of classical philosophy, which often incorporated the mystical teachings of the medieval ages. This gave many who were interested in occultism through the age of 18th and 19th centuries the vessel they needed to explore subjective symbolism and determine their own spiritual truths. 

Because Masonry became an organization accepting many mystical brethren, the occult minded brethren of the time adopted aspects of Masonry into the developing "magical" lodges. Primarily they adopted the lodge structure finding its organization as both a degree based learning system and a democratic formation as ample for developing a harmonious and productive organization. But as speculative masonry sought to define itself in its early decades of development through its progression of High Degrees, so the occult lodges defined itself through these High degrees having discrete and secretive groups in which to practice their spiritual paths.


James E Frey 32° classifies himself as a gentleman of the old world, which means he is known to stand in the great forests reciting poetry to fair-haired damsels while wrestling bears for sport. He is a District Education Officer for the Grand Lodge of Illinois, a Past Sovereign Prince of the of Danville AASR, member of the Oak Lawn York Rite, Medinah Shriners, Royal Order of Scotland, Quram Council Allied Masonic Degrees and initiate of the Golden Dawn Collegium Spiritu Sancti. He is also a guest lecturer on Occultism and Esoteric studies in masonry for the R.E.B.I.S Research Society.

Memento Mori: Death Reflection

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners

I recently found out that the mother of a very good friend passed away. I hadn’t talked to my friend in some time. We seem to have a love/hate relationship, where we talk for some time, but then ultimately one of us does or says something that causes the other to stop talking to each other. Life takes over and then a year or two, or five passes. While distance may separate us, I always have a love and respect for her. I remember her mother fondly. Her mother, Barb, was a strong woman, having to bury her husband while supporting three children, my friend being the oldest when her father died. She loved her children, and supported them in all of their undertakings. She was everything that a mother should be. My friend may or may not realize how much of Barb’s strength I see in her, even though we don’t get to talk as much as we used to. My friend is now an orphan. While empathizing with her pain, I took the time to reflect upon my parent’s mortality and my own.

Memento Mori roughly translated from Latin as: “Remember that you have to die.” It is a practice of reflection on personal mortality that was very popular in the middle ages. It focuses on considering the transience of life, the futility of pleasure, and the certainty of death. It is a way of improving one’s character by focusing on living a virtuous life, by turning one’s attention towards the immortality of the soul and the afterlife. The idea also found artistic expression in European Christian art. The most common image of memento mori in art is a skull, or a skeleton. The Danse Macabre with its dancing Grim Reaper carrying off rich and poor alike is another example. The memento mori theme can be found in funeral art, architecture, literature, jewelry, music, and time pieces of this era. A version of the theme in the genre of art known as still life is referred to as Vanitas, Latin for “Vanity”.

My guess is that most of you know what a chamber of reflection is. For those of you that don’t, it is normally a small darkened room adjoining a lodge room in which the candidate for initiation is able to reflect and meditate on the journey he is about to undertake. Many grand lodges have frowned upon or outlawed the practice. There are some that allow it. It has become more popular with the advent of Traditional Observance lodges. If you’re interested in the subject and a Masonic representation of such, I’d recommend reading the article by WB Andrew Hammer on the Masonic Restoration Foundation website:

There is no specific list of contents, but it can contain either literally or representatively such objects as a skull, a scythe, an hourglass, bread and water, sulfur, salt, a cockerel, a candle, a mirror, or the acronym ‘V.I.T.R.I.O.L’. Each item has an exoteric and esoteric meaning. My objective isn’t to discuss these. You can find a pretty good short explanation of their meanings on our own site or a deeper dive at the links at the end of the article. My objective is to discuss why each of us as Freemasons still need to seek solitude and reflect in our daily lives.

All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”- Blaise Pascal, Pens’ees

While Pascal wasn’t a Freemason, he was a major contributor to natural and applied sciences, mathematics, philosophy and invention. His earliest work made important contributions to the study of fluids, and he clarified the concepts of pressure and vacuum. While still a teenager, he started working on calculating machines. After 3 years of trial and error, and over 50 prototypes, he finished 20 machines known as Pascal’s calculators over the next 10 years. Making him one of the earliest inventors of a mechanical calculator. At age 16, he wrote a treatise on the subject of projective geometry, and was influential in developing economics and social science with his correspondences on probability theory. His most famous work, however, is the philosophical treatise: Pens’ees. His work is an exploration of the human condition. He deals with two themes; our state without God being one of misery, and our grandeur with him.

Pascal argues that without God, our spiritual condition is a state of misery characterized by anxiety, alienation, loneliness and ennui. He suggests that if we could sit still and honestly look inside ourselves, we would recognize our despair. We however spend most of our time blocking out or concealing our true condition by using various forms of self-deception. He calls this continual need and addictive tendency to seek out mindless and soul numbing forms of entertainment or amusement divertissement (distraction or diversion). These diversions can be immoral: drunkenness, or sexual promiscuity, but more often take the form of habits that are merely wasteful or self-indulgent, like gaming, sports, even the arts. All of the luxuries, consumer goods and creature comforts that we surround ourselves with are distractions. We use them as a way of concealing our bleak inner reality from ourselves and from one another. They are a way of denying our own mortality and hollowness. Luckily, our state is dual. We have a sense of our intrinsic dignity and worth because we are able to think. Thought is the attribute of our nature that elevates and separates us from the rest of the universe. Our consciousness is a gift from God, and a sign of his grandeur. Pascal was 39 years old at the time of his death. He died in 1662.

What really strikes me about Pascal’s themes are how relevant they are now. We now live in a time where most of us carry around a device of divertissement, which allows us to access the internet where we go to sites like Facebook or Twitter, and argue with strangers about our own philosophies and how superior we are to them. We post photos on Instagram showing selfies, pets, family but they don’t really represent us. We have lost the ability to be social. We interact electronically. We use Email, text message, or various messenger apps from Facebook, Google, or other providers to communicate. I experience it at home, where it seems the only way I can communicate with my children is via text message. We see it at work, in public, at home and at lodge.

Most of us are addicted to this behavior, and most of us are addicted to our phones. Walking around campus at the University of Illinois, you see this first hand. At any given time you will see the mass of zombies shambling across campus, lost in their little divertissement devices, not paying attention to anything around them. They walk into walls, into trees, into bus shelters. Go to any concert and you don’t experience the concert through your own eyes. You hold up your phone and record or photograph the entire thing. I remember bringing my son, Ken, to see Bernie Sanders when he stopped here in 2016 prior to the Illinois primary. There was a young women who was mindlessly trying to walk along the wall of the gym that I was next too during the rally. I wondered what she was doing, as she seemed distraught. I didn’t know if she needed help. She looked like what I imagine a heroin addict looks like while trying to find their next fix. It then dawned on me what her issue was. I noticed that she had her charger cord in her other hand. Her phone was dead. She was looking frantically for an outlet to charge it at.

Our addiction to our devices has led us to have inauthentic connections with the world and each other. We see the world through an electronic eye. We don’t take the time to think in the digital age. We react emotionally or instinctually because the information is coming so quickly we have a hard time processing it. Many of us don’t take the time to see if something they read on Facebook, or the internet in general is actually true. We have lost our ability to think rationally. Most importantly and sadly, we’ve lost the ability to authentically connect with ourselves. We don’t know who we really are anymore. There is no impetus for contemplative thought or meditation, self-discovery, or personal growth. In today’s world, you can go your whole life, live superficially, and not even know it.

Bro. Manly P. Hall saw this danger coming from technology in the 1960’s. In his lecture, “How to Turn Off the TV in One Easy Lesson and Live Happily Ever After”. He states: ‘Nothing happens upstairs in ourselves, nothing is being developed as a factor in the growth of our own thinking. We are not thinking, actually, and if we are thinking, we aren’t doing anything about it because most of the thoughts are non-factual. So here we go, all through an entire lifetime surrounded by all types of information which we accept only through the eyes and ears and when the time comes we do very little to solve our own problems. A person whose mind is being used every day to find new values, accomplish new works, do new things that have not been done, improve the quality of living, solve the personal problems of his life – these are the things that help to exercise the mind, but to drift along from work to television to bed and then up and again the next day is not doing anything to make people, it is only continuing the humdrum which is only one step above animal existence.’

When was the last time that you sat alone quietly lost in contemplative or meditative thought? The working tools of Masonry are meant to help build the spiritual temple within yourself. The ability to contemplate or meditate on one’s existence, one’s purpose, one’s relationship with God, the Universe, Mankind and one’s own mortality are the foundations upon which Masonry is built. It’s only when we reflect that we come to understand the wisdom, strength and beauty not only of Masonry, but of the world around us. We can start to have authentic experiences, thoughts, and actions that are free from the shackles of divertissement.

The world becomes more beautiful, and it becomes more beautiful because of our consciousness of it. In our state of authentic consciousness, we understand the grandeur of God, much like Pascal understood it. The Lost Word in my mind isn’t a word at all. It’s our inability to be conscious of God’s beauty, splendor and influence on this world, and most importantly the inability to understand that we each carry God within ourselves. The ennui we suffer which causes us to seek out distractions is a result of a denial of our unconscious longing to be one with ourselves and with our creator. Our expulsion from Eden is played out again and again every time we pick up our Apple iPhone to distract ourselves from the beauty and grandeur of God within each of us and the world around us. It’s a beauty that can only be found through contemplation of one’s life and death. Our own chamber of reflection, our contemplative thought process, brings us back into a state of oneness with God. This is why I believe a chamber of reflection is relevant more now than ever in Freemasonry.

I’m going to suggest something that you might see as radical. While I know many brothers that have built their own chambers of reflection in their own homes, I don’t think you need to go to that extreme. Start by isolating yourself, either in nature or indoors. Leave your phone in your car, or another room. Get away from all possible distractions. Sit down and begin a mental exercise of contemplation or meditation on your own life and death. Start small, say like 5 minutes. Do this daily. Slowly increase the time you take for contemplation or meditation. See what happens. I’m still only a few days into the process myself. But I can tell you in the short time that I’ve done this, that I’ve discovered truths about myself that were hidden from me. I’ve made decisions that are ones that I wouldn’t have made a week ago. I’m really trying to be more authentic in my relationship with myself, the world around me, and God by remembering that as I live, I also have to die. Memento Mori.

Links regarding the Chamber of Reflection:


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

Reincarnation and Freemasonry

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Ken JP Stuczynski

Freemasonry does not require particular belief in the afterlife, only the immortality of the soul -- that some part of who we are continues in some way after bodily death. Reincarnation is not a belief common in traditional Western religions, but surveys show that at least a quarter of Christians believe in it. Some say this is a contradiction, while others find confirmation or at least hints of the belief in Judeo-Christian scripture. The idea was also not unknown to Jewish and Christian mystics, likely from contact with India since the time of Alexander the Great. Regardless, the viewpoint of living life after life has profound implications consistent with Masonic values.

One consequence is that of legacy. Where most of us want to leave a better world for our children, those who believe in reincarnation are also making the world better for themselves. Whatever world they make they will have to live in it again. It is not merely a passing on of the torch, but a continuation of work. From contemplating this viewpoint, we can ask ourselves -- even hypothetically if you do not believe in reincarnation -- what do we want to do in this lifetime that we would want to continue in the next, or reap its benefits? What mark could you leave on the world so significant that being randomly cast into another life would guarantee being affected by it?

Another implication is the idea we have many chances, or steps, to perfect the rough ashlar, and our work can only be turned in after we submit a stone that is true and square. This is an excuse to aid in the reformation of others and ourselves, considering few, if any, to be beyond redemption. And what better way to be humbled than to know our spiritual work is greater than our single lifetime. Masonry, like the Operative Craft of the cathedral builders, teaches us we begin what others will finish and finish what others have started, spanning lifetimes and generations. We can't expect to do it all during our short years and should not lament it as a personal shortcoming. How odd would it be in Deity's great design that we should only live and die, when more glorious purposes require time leaning toward eternity, whatever form the rest of our travels take.

Reincarnation is also the reverse of the YOLO ("You Only Live Once") culture of the libertine, or the materialist-atheist. Like a belief in immediate heavenly reward, those embracing reincarnation do not live for the moment, except as a prelude to a future. What we do now has real consequences, to our future in this life and the next (and the next).

Perhaps it is a sensible idea to us or even one in which we already believe. Or perhaps it doth seem strange to us, but the sentiment ought to be familiar to our core beliefs, where we travel "from life to life". Or perhaps we reject the notion of reincarnation, but still can learn its lessons. The Roman poet Seneca says, "Live each day as a separate life." Each day, or life, presents us with a new trestle board, and even if we can only see this day's work, we know we didn't start it, and it will continue long after the working tools of life fall from our hands. And maybe the tools will be waiting for us once again in the morning.


Bro. Ken JP Stuczynski is a member of West Seneca Lodge No.1111 and recently served as Master of Ken-Ton Lodge No.1186. As webmaster for NYMasons.Org he is on the Communications and Technology Committees for the Grand Lodge of the State of New York. He is also a Royal Arch Mason and 32nd Degree Scottish Rite Mason, serving his second term as Sovereign Prince of Palmoni Council in the Valley of Buffalo, NMJ. He also coordinates a Downtown Square Club monthly lunch in Buffalo, NY. He and his wife served as Patron and Matron of Pond Chapter No.853 Order of the Eastern Star and considered himself a “Masonic Feminist”.

A Trip to the Used Bookstore

by Senior Midnight Freemason Contributor
Gregory J. Knott 33° 

I love visiting used bookstores.  They are usually crammed with titles of books that are no longer in the mainstream stores such as Barnes & Noble.   The staff is typically very passionate about books and extremely helpful in assisting you in finding that nugget you are looking for.

I was in Springfield, Illinois on a recent trip and made a visit to the Prairie Archives Bookstore located across the square from the Old State Capitol and two doors down from Abraham Lincoln’s law office in historic downtown Springfield. 

Upon entering Prairie Archives, I was instantly absorbed into all the books in front of me.   This store has been around since 1973 and has established a reputation as being one of the premier used bookstores.  I spent considerable time browsing through shelf after shelf of treasurers who were just waiting for someone to pick them up.  Numerous titles caught my attention and it was all I could do to resist so many of them.   

My own personal book collection is probably now approaching a thousand books, so I have begun to try and focus my collection down into a few key areas, with Freemasonry being one of them.  Of course, there is always room for one more book, but I am working hard to be more disciplined with my book selections.

Prairie Archives is extremely well organized and has an extensive online database on Abe Books.  As I was making my rounds, one of the staff members asked me if he could help me find anything and I told him that I collected masonic-related books.   He asked me if I had seen the masonic section, and I told him I must have overlooked it.  I was shown where it was and I was pleasantly surprised by how many titles they had on hand.

As I started working my way through the shelves of books, I found titles from the Missouri Lodge of Research, the Masonic Book Club, proceedings from various masonic groups, and more.   Some great stuff.

I settled on four books that included Anderson’s Constitutions of 1738 reprinted by the Masonic Book Club in 1978 and A Daily Advancement in Masonic Knowledge, The Collected Blue Friar Lectures published by the Masonic Book Club in 2003.   I also picked up Sesquicentennial History of the Grand Commandery of Knight Templar of the State of Illinois 1857-2007 by Robert Baker Fisher and Grand York Rite Presiding Officers (Illinois) 1847-2007 by John Thomas Riedas, Sr.  I was extremely pleased with my new treasures.  

Support your local bookstores, buy new and used.   There are many books just waiting for you to rediscover them and share the knowledge they contain.

Serva Lectio - which is Latin for keep reading!


Gregory J. Knott, 33° is a founding member and Senior Contributor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He is a Past Master of St. Joseph Lodge No. 970 in St. Joseph (IL) and a plural member of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL) and Naval Lodge No. 4 in Washington, DC. He’s a member of the Scottish Rite, the York Rite, Eastern Star and is the Charter Secretary of the Illini High Twelve Club No. 768 in Champaign-Urbana. He is also a member of ANSAR Shrine (IL) and the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees. Greg serves on the Board of Directors of The Masonic Society and is a member of the Scottish Rite Research Society and The Philathes Society. He is a charter member of a new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter U.D., and serves as its Secretary. Greg is very involved in Boy Scouts—an Eagle Scout himself, he is a member of the National Association of Masonic Scouters.

Freemasons on the Titanic

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
WB E. Gordon Mooneyhan

Our craft has traditionally attracted good men of every social standing. Today we have pizza delivery drivers, business owners, and politicians among our members. It was similar in Edwardian England; our Craft attracted individuals who wanted to better themselves, regardless of their social standing.

A prime example was the RMS Titanic. It is doubtful that any other ship in history has had as many pages written, or as much film shot about it like the Titanic. It was not the deadliest sinking ever; that dubious honor belongs to the Wilhelm Gustloff, when over 9,000 people died when she sank near the end of WW2. However, the Titanic is arguably the most famous. The first movie of the sinking was made less than a month after the disaster, the Germans made a propaganda film of the sinking, Walter Lord’s “A Night to Remember” was probably the most accurate as far as the timeline of events went. And there was James Cameron’s blockbuster “Titanic.” And let’s not forget bestselling author Clive Cussler who “Raised the Titanic.”

The Titanic is a perfect microcosm of Edwardian society. It was, basically, a small town. From what I have been able to find out, of the 2,240 passengers and crew on board, 29 were members of the Craft. Nine were in First Class, six in Second Class, three in Third Class, and the balance of thirteen were part of the ship’s crew, and there was one Brother who was an employee of the United States Post Office (remember, RMS stood for Royal Mail Ship).

Let’s start with the Brothers who survived the sinking. Doctor William Frauenthal was a First-Class passenger on the Titanic after returning from France where he had gotten married. His specialty was the treatment of chronic joint diseases, and he had established a clinic in New York City for the treatment of patients. He, his wife, and his brother were all in lifeboat number 7 when it left the sinking Titanic at about 12:40 a.m., approximately one hour after the ship struck the iceberg. 

Elmer Taylor was a pioneer in the paper container industry. He designed and manufactured automatic machinery for moisture-proof food containers, and had begun the manufacture of paper cups in England under the name Mono Industries. He and his wife were in lifeboat 5 or 7. He died on May 20, 1949, in East Orange, New Jersey, and was buried with his first wife in Smyrna, Delaware.

Second Class Chief Steward John Hardy had been employed with the White Star Line for 12 years and had served on the Majestic, Adriatic, Olympic, Teutonic, and finally the Titanic. He retired to his room on Sunday, April 14, at approximately 11:25 p.m. His room was on E Deck, roughly amidships and he felt a slight shock a few minutes later. He was later roused by the Chief First-Class Steward who told him the ship was taking on water forward. He got dressed and made his way to the Boat Deck, assisting passengers in getting their life belts fastened. He reached his assigned station and assisted Second Officer Charles Lightoller in getting passengers on the lifeboats. Eventually, he would board Collapsible D and be saved by the Carpathia. He and his family later emigrated to the United States. He died in Maplewood, New Jersey on October 7, 1953.

Aragõa Harrison was a First-Class Saloon Steward on the Titanic. He had served in the Boer War as a Lieutenant in the Royal Field Artillery. He was assigned to lifeboat 15 at the time of the sinking. Once it was lowered away, he assisted passengers into lifeboats 11 and 13. He then assisted passengers in getting into lifeboat 9 until he was ordered to get into the lifeboat by First Officer William Murdoch.

Herbert Pitman was the Third Navigation Officer on the Titanic. At the time of the Titanic's collision with the iceberg, Pitman was off-duty, half-asleep in his bunk in the Officers' Quarters. He heard and felt the collision, later testifying that it felt like the ship "coming to an anchor." He was dressing for his watch when Fourth Officer Boxhall rushed in and informed him they had struck an iceberg and were taking on water. Pitman was then ordered to report to the starboard side of the ship to assist in uncovering lifeboats. After receiving the command to lower the boats, Murdoch ordered Pitman to take charge of Lifeboat No. 5. Before Pitman entered the lifeboat, Murdoch shook his hand saying "Goodbye; good luck." Pitman at this point did not believe that the Titanic was seriously endangered, and thought the evacuation of passengers was precautionary. He stepped into the lifeboat and it was lowered to the water. Murdoch had ordered Pitman to take the lightly loaded lifeboat to the gangway doors to take on more passengers there, but (as Pitman later testified) the doors failed to open as the lifeboat waited for this about 100 yards off from the ship. Up to this point, Pitman had expected the ship to remain afloat. After an hour in the lifeboat, however, he realized that the Titanic was doomed, and withdrew the lifeboat 300 yards further off from the descending ship. He watched the Titanic sink from about 400 yards distance, and was one of the few to state afterward in the official inquiries that he thought she sank in one piece. As the stern slipped underwater, he looked at his watch and announced to the lifeboat's occupants, "It's 2.20." Hearing the cries of those in the water after the ship had gone, Pitman decided to row back to them to rescue whomever he could. However, after announcing this course of action to the passengers in the lifeboat he was confronted with many protests from them against the idea, with the expression of fear that the lifeboat would be mobbed and capsized by the panicking multitude in the water. Faced with this Pitman acquiesced and kept the lifeboat at its station several hundred yards off while the passengers and crew in the water perished swiftly in the cold. The water temperature was estimated to be 28 degrees F and hypothermia would occur in under 15 minutes. In later life, Pitman admitted to bearing the burden of a bad conscience for his failure to take the lifeboat to the rescue of those dying in the water that night. He died of a hemorrhage on December 7, 1961, at the age of 84. 

James Widgery was a Second-Class Bath Steward on the Titanic. He was assisting with getting passengers onto Lifeboat No. 9. He would leave on that boat after helping it to get filled almost to its limit.

Of the 29 Brothers on the maiden voyage of the Titanic, those six were the only ones to survive.

Starting with the First-Class passengers who did not survive, let’s look at businessman John Baumann and theatrical producer Henry Harris. In addition to being Masonic Brothers, they were also acquaintances. Baumann had helped out Harris during a time of need in 1909 and, in 1912, Baumann found himself in need while in London and Harris returned the favor. Both men were on the Titanic. While not much is known about their time on the Titanic, Baumann was last seen in the company of Harris after he had placed his wife on the last lifeboat to leave the ship. Baumann’s Will left his Masonic charm, watch and chain, and several other personal possessions to Mr. Harris. Both men would die on that fateful night in 1912.

John Brady was Vice President of the Pomeroy (Washington) Savings Bank. He had been on an extended European vacation and was concerned about being able to return home because of the coal strikes that were ongoing in the United Kingdom. He had also booked passage on a German-flagged vessel in case there wasn’t coal available for the Titanic. He was a member of the Pomeroy Masonic Lodge as well as the Commandery in Walla Walla and the Elkatiff Temple in Spokane. 

Major Archibald Willingham Butt was a military aide to Presidents William Howard Taft and Theodore Roosevelt. His health was faltering because of his attempts to remain neutral in the quarrel between Taft and Roosevelt. He took six weeks' leave from the White House and went to Europe. He was returning on the Titanic with his close friend Francis Millet. There was a story that Major Butt had a daughter who was illegitimate and survived the sinking of the Titanic. When the facts of her story are looked at, it becomes clear that the story has no foundation in truth. The Millet-Butt Memorial Foundation was set up in their honor after the sinking.

Howard Case was born in Rochester, NY in 1863. He had moved to England around 1890 when he first appears on a census. He was in the oil business. It is believed that he was on a business trip to Standard Oil of New York when the Titanic sank. There are many accounts of Case helping women and children into the lifeboats before stepping away from the lifeboats to meet his own fate.

Alexander Oskar Holverson was born in Rushford Minnesota in 1869. He became a successful traveling salesman and was a member of Transportation Lodge #842. He and his wife had been on vacation in South America since late 1911. They arrived in Southampton, England on April 6 aboard the Aragon and departed on April 10.  Mrs. Holverson would survive in Lifeboat No. 8. His body was one of the few recovered.

Harry Molson’s name may sound familiar. He was the 4th generation of a family that had made its fortune in brewing beer, banking, and building steamships. Although he wasn’t from the influential side of the family, he did inherit a considerable fortune when his uncle, John Henry Robinson Molson, unexpectedly died and left him with a fortune. He was the Worshipful Master of Quebec’s oldest Masonic Lodge, St. Paul’s Lodge #374. He survived several boating accidents; the sinking of the Scotsman in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and he swam to shore when the Canada collided with a collier in the St. Lawrence River. He was a bit of a playboy and engaged in a long menage a trois with his cousin Alexander Harris and his (Harris’) wife, Florence. Alexander did not mind sharing his wife with Harry; even though they kept their affair discreet, it was well a known fact in Montreal. He was last seen on the Titanic removing his shoes and planning to swim to a ship whose lights could be seen off the port bow. His body was never recovered. There is a memorial to him in Montreal’s Mount Royal Cemetery, Psalm 77, Verse 19, “Thy Way is in the Sea, and Thy path is in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known.”

William Walker was a merchant. He was an active Mason in Hope Lodge F. and A.M. #124 having served as Worshipful Master. After it became apparent that he had not survived the disaster, Hope Lodge had a special meeting. Walker had taken a special interest in a friend’s son, and Theodore Bomeisler was to have been raised to the sublime degree of a Master Mason with Walker presiding.

Moving on to the Second-Class passengers, Reverend Robert Bateman was a Methodist Minister. He had returned to England to visit relatives and was encouraged to bring his widowed sister-in-law with him on his return to America. On the night of the sinking, he had organized a prayer meeting near the Second-Class Dining Room. It was a small group, not more than six or eight people. They sang hymns and prayed. The group had dispersed by 10:30 p.m. He had to escort his sister-in-law to the lifeboats, as she was reluctant to leave the ship. As the lifeboat she was in was being lowered, he reportedly threw her his necktie and shouted, “If I don’t meet you again in this world, I will in the next.” His remains were recovered by the cable ship Mackay-Bennett and forwarded to his widow in Jacksonville, FL, where he was interred in the Evergreen Cemetery.

William Gilbert was born in Breage, Cornwall, England in 1864. His father had emigrated to Butte, MT. where he worked as a miner, making intermittent visits back to Cornwall. William would eventually follow in his father’s footsteps becoming a miner. On January 24, 1896, he joined True and Faithful Lodge in Helston, England. His father retired from mining around 1900 and returned to Cornwall where he died in 1902. William never married and returned to Cornwall for a three-month vacation in January 1912. He delayed his departure until April so he could be on the maiden voyage of the Titanic. His Second-Class ticket cost £10, 10s. His body, if recovered, was never identified.

The ‘Guarantee Group’, put together by Harland and Wolff, sailed on the great ship’s maiden voyage to deal with any minor finishing faults. From apprentice plumbers to the ship’s chief designer, Thomas Andrews, each of the chosen men was selected for this prestigious role as a reward for his hard work during the ship’s construction. Second-Class passenger Robert Knight was a member of the Harland and Wolff Guarantee Group and a Brother. He was an engine fitter. Along with the rest of the H&W Guarantee Group, he would perish in the sinking. The city of Belfast erected a plaque in his honor near his home on Yarrow Street. They also erected plaques near the homes of the other eight members of the Guarantee Group.

Robert W. N. Leyson was from Kensington, London, England, and was born in 1887. He was inducted into Cambrian Lodge on January 16, 1912. His profession was listed as an engineer although virtually all records indicate he was a solicitor. He boarded the Titanic and was intending to join his older brother in New York. His body was recovered by the cable ship Mackay-Bennett. He was buried at sea on April 24, 1912.

Philip Stokes was a Mason in both senses of the word. There is no record of when he joined our gentle craft, nor of which Lodge he may have belonged to. His body was recovered with a Masonic button. He was also a bricklayer or an operative mason. His body was recovered by the Mackay-Bennett and was buried at sea on April 24th.

William Turpin was a member of the Lodge of St. George #2025 in Plymouth, England. He and his wife married on March 23, 1908, and, shortly after, he secured employment in Salt Lake City, UT. They had no children. In August 1911, they returned to England to visit their respective families. They were originally scheduled to return to the United States aboard the steamer New York, but the coal strike had them transferred to the Titanic. On the night of the sinking, second officer Charles Lightoller encountered a couple from the West Country. When the woman was advised that she should try to board a lifeboat, she replied, “Not on your life.” Although there is no proof, it is believed that the couple were the Turpins. Both of them died in the sinking and their bodies, if found, were never identified.

Only two brothers from Third-Class died in the sinking. Alexander Mellis Thompson was a stone polisher born in Aberdeen, Scotland on October 19, 1875. He would move to Cape Town, South Africa to pursue his chosen craft. He later returned to the United Kingdom. Thompson had secured work in Barre, Vermont, and was traveling alone to establish a home with his wife and children joining him at a later date. He was originally supposed to have traveled on the S.S. Cymric but the nationwide coal strike had caused that ship to cancel its voyage. He boarded the Titanic in Southampton. He had been raised to the sublime degree of a Master Mason shortly before sailing. His body, if recovered, was never identified. His obituary says that “He was known as a deft and artistic workman in lettering and designing.”

Arthur O’Keefe was born in Rahway, New Jersey in 1867. On the census, his profession was listed as a grocer. Arthur never married and spent his life living with his mother above the grocery store. His sister was widowed in 1908 and moved in with her brother and mother. Together the three of them ran the grocery store. The mother died in 1911. He was believed to have been a Freemason, and there is mixed evidence. He was heavily involved in local politics with the Republican Party. Besides the grocery store, he owned other property in Rahway. In February 1912, he left on a voyage to visit England, Scotland, and Ireland. He would send hope postcards and gifts from the various places he visited, including shamrocks which he timed to arrive on St. Patrick’s Day. On the night of the sinking, it is believed that O’Keefe was one of the men who managed to drag himself into Collapsible A. Olaus Abelseth from Norway, recognized him as the man that he had shared a carriage with on the boat train to Southampton. The hypothermia had made O’Keefe delirious and he died in the boat. His body, along with two others, was left in the boat when Fifth Officer Lowe arrived to transfer the survivors to one of the lifeboats. About a month after the sinking, Collapsible A was found by the Oceanic and the bodies were buried at sea.

There were six crewmen who were known to be Brothers and lost their lives on that terrible night. Henry Ashe was born in 1871 and, by 1891, had already begun a seafaring career. He first shows up as a waiter on the Cunard Line’s RMS Campania in 1897. By 1902, he had transferred to the White Star Line and was a steward on board the Majestic. He was made a Mason at Egremont Lodge on February 5, 1906. He signed on to the Titanic on April 4, 1912, as a Glory-Hole Steward. He was. basically, a steward for the crew.

Alfred Deeble was a First-Class Saloon Steward on the Titanic. Prior to that, he had served in the same position on the Titanic’s sister ship, RMS Olympic. He was born in 1877 and first went to sea aboard the Royal Navy ship HMS Brilliant. His last naval tour was on the HMS Prince of Wales. He was a member of Neptune Lodge 1264. His body was recovered by the Mackay-Bennett and he was buried at Fairview Lawn Cemetery, Halifax, Nova Scotia on May 3, 1912.

Edward Dodd was a Junior Third Engineer. He was born in Cheshire England in 1873. The 1891 census described him as a steam engine maker’s fitter apprentice. He apprenticed at the Crewe works of the London and North Western Railroad Company. When he completed his apprenticeship, he joined the White Star Line as Sixth Engineer, serving aboard the Celtic in 1904. He served on various White Star Line ships, including the Olympic. He was not married and was a member of Four Cardinal Virtues Lodge Number 979 in Crewe. A brass memorial tablet was erected in Christ Church, Crewe by his Lodge Brothers. It states, “In memory of Edward Charles Dodd, Junior 3rd Engineer who perished by the foundering of the Steamship Titanic in the Atlantic Ocean, April 1912. This tablet was erected by the Brethren of the Freemasons’ Lodge, Four Cardinal Virtues no 979 Crewe.”

George Dodd (no relation to Edward Dodd) was born in 1867. He was a member of Light of the South Lodge having become a mason on December 2, 1890. At that time, his occupation was described as Livery Story Keeper. He served as J. Bruce Ismay’s valet for ten years. He initially joined the Titanic for its delivery voyage from Belfast to Southampton. Dodd was instrumental during the sinking in directing passengers to the lifeboats. He perished in the sinking and his body, if recovered, was never identified.

Herbert Harvey was a Junior Assistant Second Engineer. He was born in Belfast, Ireland in 1878. He apprenticed at the Belfast and Northern Counties Locomotive Works in Belfast. After serving in the Boer War, he joined the shore staff of Harland and Wolff (the builders of the Titanic). He was on duty in the engine room when the Titanic collided with the iceberg. His body was never identified.

John Strugnell was born in Liverpool, England in 1878. He began his seafaring career in 1901 and was initiated into Freemasonry in October 1907. He was on board the delivery trip of the Titanic from Belfast to Southampton where he signed on for the maiden voyage as a First-Class Saloon Steward. He died in the sinking and his body, if recovered, was never identified.

Though technically not a crew member, Oscar Woody was a postal clerk on the Titanic. He was born in Roxboro, NC, on April 15, 1871. By the early 1890s, he was working in the Railway Post Office (RPO) cars running between Greensboro, NC, and Washington, DC. He resided in Washington until 1909 when he was assigned to the Marine Post Office and moved to New York. He became a Mason sometime before moving to New York. He received orders to join the Titanic and boarded on April 10, 1912. He was due to celebrate his birthday onboard the ship on April 15th. On the night of the sinking, Woody, along with the other postal clerks and a couple of the ship’s sailors, was last seen moving 200 sacks of mail from the ship’s post office to the upper decks in an attempt to keep the mail dry. His body was recovered by the Mackay-Bennett and he was buried at sea.

Five survivors of the sinking became members of our Craft afterward. Arthur Burrage was born in Sussex, England on August 4, 1891. He was a Plate Steward and probably escaped the sinking in lifeboat 13. He served in the merchant fleet during WW1 and was initiated into St. David’s Lodge on September 3, 1918.

Frank Aks, a Third-Class passenger, was born on June 7, 1911. He and his mother ended up on different lifeboats during the sinking and were reunited on the Carpathia. He owned a salvage company in Norfolk, VA. He was a member of Khedive Shrine Temple and Masonic Lodge 1. He died on July 15, 1991, at the age of 80.

William Coutts was born in Kent, England in 1902. His father had previously emigrated to America and saved enough money for his wife and two sons to travel in Second-Class. Wanting to save money to help furnish their new home, his mother purchased Third-Class tickets instead. They escaped in lifeboat 2. He was a member of the Pittsburgh Masonic Lodge. He died from a stroke on Christmas Day, 1957.

August Wennerström was born in Sweden on April 24, 1884. He was a journalist, typesetter, and social activist. He left Sweden to emigrate to the United States in 1912. He was a Third-Class passenger on the Titanic. He was swept overboard as the Titanic was making its final plunge and managed to get into collapsible A. He suffered permanent foot troubles from his prolonged exposure to the cold. He resided in Culver, Indiana where he was a gardener. He died on November 22, 1950, and is buried in Culver’s Masonic Cemetery. 

Titanic’s Fifth Officer, Harold Lowe, became a mason in the 1920s. He never held an office in his Lodge but was as active as being a mariner would allow him to be. He remained at sea but never achieved a command although he was made a Commander in the Royal Navy Reserve during WW1. He was also the only Titanic crew member to take his lifeboat back to look for survivors. He died on May 12, 1944.


I feel almost inadequate on my Masonic journey to be writing for the Midnight Freemason when I compare myself to how far other Brothers have gone whose writings have appeared here. At the same time, all our journeys are unique. I was raised to the Sublime Degree of a Master Mason in February 2006. My dad had been a Mason most of his life, and I had wondered about the Craft but never had the inclination to ask while he was alive. That is probably my greatest regret.

In early 2005, a friend who lived about 3 hours away from me, mentioned that he was having some problems. I had some money I could spare so I went to see him and took him grocery shopping. I managed to buy him about a month’s worth of food. Granted, there was a lot of hamburger helper and tuna helper, but it was greatly appreciated. As I got ready to leave, my friend asked me if I was a Mason. I told him that I wasn’t, but that my dad had been one. I thought about that question all the way home, and over the next few days at work. I then began my journey in our ancient craft.

The story doesn’t end there. My friend called me about 6 years later and asked me the question. He lives in a different Masonic Jurisdiction, but I was able to find, and contact, a Lodge in his hometown. Long story short, I was able to attend his raising.

I’m still a 3rd Degree Mason and am a Past Master of Seaside Lodge #419 in Myrtle Beach, SC.

E. Gordon Mooneyhan, W4EGM

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