Cryptic Contemplations

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Ken JP Stuczynski

I am a new Cryptic Mason. I have been studying profusely the lessons and history of Royal Arch Masonry to at least try to provide adequate instruction for my Chapter as High Priest. But this new journey is yet another layer of allegory and meaning.

I understand (as much as I am able) the interrelationship between the Three Degrees and the Royal Arch Degrees. Historical complexities can reasonably account for the order of the events in the legends. We find the "deleted scenes" that occur before and after the notorious murder scene and then are fast-forwarded to what is almost a sequel in itself, the recovery of what is lost.

So how does Cryptic fit in? Are they just some extra degrees that lingered on after the first three had been finally and firmly established in the middle of the 18th Century? Were they crammed in to fill out some need, or perhaps arbitrarily placed in the York Rite from the Scottish Rite due to the common details of the Legend? (I must here note that many of the creative ritualists were the same people in both traditions.) There seems to be little logic in any of it, being solely a matter of historical compromises and nearly random circumstances.

I'm not concerned with that here. Well, from a scholarly view it is noteworthy, but what we can consider from the experience is more than just what the authors intended or even imagined. We can speculate on them ourselves, as individuals, and what I have derived is a pattern that makes sense to me. So what I propose here is another angle from which to measure this path of Degree work.

Let's put aside the chronology of the story, and distill the elements down to their possible underlying meaning. In other words, let's see the Degrees as our own story and see what fits where.

We begin by losing something precious. We're not even sure exactly what it was that was lost because we didn't quite receive it. Is it a part of ourselves, perhaps a connection to our higher nature? Perhaps such loss is the expulsion from the Garden, the Fall of Adam in each of us.

Sure, we learn from the consequences of our natural inadequacies. Maybe that's part of the purpose of human existence. But regardless, we are in some way lacking and imperfect. There is something missing and we cannot complete our journey. We must use a substitute to get us by. Who knows what the particulars may mean for you, the reader, but we all have at some point been at a loss and prop ourselves up with something by which to compensate or medicate or just plain cope.

However, by some divine forethought and Grace, we find a hidden remnant of what we lost. Perhaps we gave up looking; perhaps we strove diligently in Faith. But such an important thing could not be gone forever, lest there be no true Hope. When we recovered (or rather uncovered) the holy relic and its secret, it was as if our journey was complete. We know Truth in a higher and more complete way.

So why does the Cryptic narrative serve as the final chapter of the story? I see it as the lesson of how we should preserve and cherish what was found, something that could only be heartily done AFTER having suffered its loss.

We cherish it as a secret should be cherished -- entombed in our faithful breast, rather than dissipated in an unintelligible shout among the profane. And we value it enough to preserve it through the passing on of our tradition, from generation to generation. This could be symbolic of passing on our highest values to our children, or those we mentor, or the young in general.

This gives a deeper meaning to what it means to "keep" your word. We've all had times we lost part of ourselves, and may or may not have succeeded in preserving our integrity or honor. But sometimes it takes losing something to realize how precious it is. From that point onward, we try to do better once such things are regained.

So these are my thoughts about Cryptic Masonry. As I progress, I may find it primitive or build further upon it. But for now, I have this lesson to learn: I must not only rediscover those things that are dear and precious in my life but learn to actively guard them against the ruffians of the world and even my own apathy, sleeplessly and unceasing as if defending whatever it may be from the ravages of time itself.


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”.

Masonic Funeral Rites and the Great Lights of Freemasonry

by Midnight Freemason Emeritus Contributor
Brian L. Pettice, 33˚

Masonic funeral services are one of the most beautiful ceremonies of the Craft.  They provide an opportunity for the fraternity to reflect on the memory of a Brother at his passing and to show his family a bit about the organization he was a member of.  They often provide an introduction to freemasonry for the friends and loved ones of a Brother who has passed and I’ve known a few men who petitioned to join the fraternity after witnessing a service.

From 2003 to 2008 I was secretary of the only Masonic Lodge I belonged to at the time.  This was a time when many of those Brethren who were members of the Greatest Generation, that generation that had won World War II and helped bring greater prosperity to our country and the developed world, were passing from this life in great numbers.  I remember one winter in that time when the lodge performed six Masonic Funeral Services in less than a month.  Suffice it to say that as lodge secretary I saw more of these services than I wanted to.  Over the years I have had the opportunity to learn the Chaplain part in the ceremony and have given that part many times.  Recently I learned the Worshipful Master part, though I haven’t yet had to perform the part in a ceremony. 

I know that the ritual and work of Masonic Funeral Rites vary by jurisdiction and your jurisdiction may have more explicit instruction on the subject I am about to discuss, but having observed or participated in many of these services in Illinois, I have noticed that there doesn’t seem to be a prescribed manner in which the Great Lights of Freemasonry should be displayed.  In fact, I am not sure that I have seen them borne into the room in which the ceremony takes place and placed on the table set out for that purpose the same way twice. 

This has led me to the question of this paper--how should the Great Lights of Freemasonry be displayed at a Masonic Funeral Service in Illinois?  And my thoughts as I shared them with a group of my Brethren that gather monthly to practice the work and discuss the craft.

Let’s start with what instruction is given.  The Book of Ceremonials of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Illinois states, “The Holy Bible should be borne in a funeral procession and open at the 12th Chapter of Ecclesiastes, with the square on one page and the compasses on the other.”  So while the Book of Ceremonials assumes the Bible as a Brother’s Volume of the Sacred Law and contemplates a graveside service; we can follow its instruction that the Bible, if it is a Brother’s VSL, should be opened to a specific Book, Chapter, and Verse and that the square and compasses should be on separate pages, regardless of the location of the service. 

What isn’t instructed is how the VSL should be situated in the room or area in which the service takes place, which page each tool should be on, and why.  The following discussion is offered to illustrate and explain one method of situating the VSL and placing the tools and the symbolism portrayed in that method.  The discussion is an opinion.  It carries no official weight or authority and imposes no requirements on anyone.  You are free to use it or ignore it-- your choice. 

As it accommodates an assembly of Freemasons, it makes sense that the room or space in which the Masonic Funeral Service takes place should, as closely as practical, be interpreted to be or be situated in the form of a lodge.  In this situation, the Officiating Master would be in the East and the table provided for the display of the Great Lights would take the place of the lodge’s altar.  The Great Lights would be placed upon the table in a like manner as on a lodge’s altar.  The officer charged with displaying the Great Lights would carry them to the west side of the table, face the east, and place them upon the table in the same manner as they are placed upon a lodge’s altar with the Bible opened to the 12th Chapter of Ecclesiastes, the text-oriented so that it would be readable to him as he faces east.  He would place the opened compasses on the right page of the Bible, on his right, and the square on the left.

To begin to understand the symbolism of this suggested placement of the square and compasses, let us consider an excerpt from the paper, The Square and Compasses, produced by the Grand Lodge of Texas and published on the website  “In ancient symbolism, the square signified the earth, while a circle, drawn with the compasses, represented the heavens. For the Freemason, the Square represents what is earthly and material while the Compasses signify the heavenly and the spiritual. It is not without significance then that the position of the points of the compasses within the interlaced Square and Compasses changes as the Freemason progresses from an Entered Apprentice Mason to a Fellowcraft Mason and finally to a Master Mason. It represents his progression in life from the here to the hereafter, from birth to the everlasting life, from the seeker of human knowledge to the seeker of divine understanding where the spiritual has obtained full mastery and control over the earthly and material.” 

So as a Mason progresses through his life it is hoped that the weaker part of him, his earthly nature, represented by the square, will yield to and be subdued by the better part, his divine spiritual nature, symbolized by the compasses.  And when his “journey of life has ended” the better part, the compasses are emblematically separated from and placed to the right on the Bible and the weaker, the square, to the left; as his immortal spirit separates from and leaves the remains of his mortal body here on Earth and ascends to “that house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”

                I hope you have found this discussion interesting.  I hope it has given you something to reflect on the next time you are in the lodge or the next time you join with your Brethren to offer to the memory of a Brother, “this tribute of affection.” 


Brian L. Pettice, 33° is a Past Master of Anchor Lodge No. 980 and plural member of Olive Branch Lodge No. 38 in Danville, IL, and an Honorary Member of a couple of others. He is also an active member of both the York and Scottish Rites. He cherishes the Brothers that have become Friends over the years and is thankful for the opportunities Freemasonry gives and has given him to examine and improve himself, to meet people he might not otherwise have had chance to meet, and to do things he might not otherwise have had a chance to do. He is employed as an electrician at the University of Illinois and lives near Alvin, IL with his wife Janet and their son Aidan. He looks forward to sharing the joy the fraternity brings him with others. His email address is

The Occult Lodge: Part Five

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

The period existing during the mid 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century saw the rebirth in the romanticism with the occult lodge. This was termed the occult reformation and no other group embodied this evolution in esoteric practice more than the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The Golden Dawn is often considered the most fundamental magical school to come out of the Occult Reformation in the 1880s. This Group had extremely close ties to Masonry, not only being founded by Masons, but being founded by Elite Masons of the Societia Rosicruciana in Anglia. This Group of Masons sought to reform Rosicrucianism and create a magical order that was separate from Masonry so women could have equal membership in the mysteries. But this Hermetic Order has its origins steeped in legend and is riddled with mystery surrounding one of the most prominent Masons of his day poet and historian Kenneth Mackenzie.

Mackenzie became a Mason in 1870 and a brilliant occult researcher, and authored the “Royal Masonic Cyclopaedia” in 1877 after mastering the Masonic mythos. On his quest for greater light in occult knowledge it was claimed that Mackenzie traveled across Europe seeking the true lineage of the Rosicrucians. During his time in France he was initiated through the nine grades of the “Gold und Rosenkreuz Order” and was given special permission to take notes on their initiations forming what would be known as the “Cypher Manuscripts”. Upon returning to England Bro. Mackenzie was instrumental in developing the initiatory grades of the S.R.I.A with Bro. Robert Wentworth Little who founded the order in 1867. The S.R.I.A became the premiere Masonic organization in London and because of its esoteric and occult nature it drew into its ranks influential membership including Dr. William Wynn Wescott, Samuel Liddell “Macgregor” Mathers, Dr. Robert William Felkinand Arthur Edward Waite. Wescott and Mathers would be deeply influenced by the S.R.I.A and with the obtaining Cipher Manuscripts after Mackenzie’s death they would go on to found the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.

The Cypher Manuscripts are a sixty page outline of magical initiations, corresponding to the elemental energies of Earth, Air, Water, and Fire, as well as kabalistic and alchemical notes related to each Grade. Wescott and Mathers included these manuscripts into the Order incorporating Egyptian symbolism and various Grimoire influences creating a sustainable current of energy that has been used as the foundation for countless occult orders. The First grade of Neophyte 0=0, is on a general level dedicated to the concept of darkness. In this Grade the Initiate is meant to realize he is bound by his own perception of subjective reality and that he must purify and cleanse his own being in order to shed the influence of his lower self upon his soul. The Initiate walks the path dictated in certain chapters of the Egyptian Book of the Dead and divided his sprit from the elemental energies freeing himself from material influence. The Grade of Zelator 1=10 correlates to the element of Earth. In this Grade the Initiate regains the element of Earth but with a new spiritual perspective and thus begins the journey of regaining his elemental energies to reform his spiritual self. The Grade Theoricus 2=9 correlates to Water, Practicus 3=8 to water, and Philosophus 4=7 to fire.

Hierius at Vernal
Equinox Ceremony
With the elemental energies regained like the Godform Osiris, the parts of the self that were once divided are now united into a balanced spiritual being. This new spiritual being is now dedicated to the Great Work without an influence of creed or religious dogma. Each grade also has kabbalistic and alchemical correlations that give a tremendous depth to its symbolism and value as an esoteric system. It is at this point the Philosophus engages in the ceremony entitled Portal, which represents the unification of their elemental energies with spirit. This creates the unified pentagram of the individual, a blazing star of aether united with all elemental forces.

The Golden Dawn created such a stir in the esoteric communities that it attracted a variety of influential people from the artistic community such as actress Florence Farr, poet W. B. Yeats, writer Bram Stoker, poet William Sharp, and bad boy Aleister Crowley. The legacy of the Dawn was short lived, as schisms among members led to the dissolving of the Order. Overall, the Golden Dawn tradition is alive but heavily divided over who should be considered the “official” Golden Dawn. With egotistic leaders claiming direct contact with the secret chiefs to eminent Freemason Chic Cicero with his lineage from Reguardi, to a variety of independent temples, the Golden Dawn community is in contest with each other.

Overall, for the esoteric student the works of the Golden Dawn are fundamental to the understanding of the Western systems of Magic. It was founded by masons in an attempt to revive and reform Rosicrucianism. They sought to overcome the mundane influences of humanity, only to be destroyed by the lower parts of the human character. Research of the Dawn is important to all Brothers who wish to further understand the Occult revival, as most esoteric groups to come after are forever indebted to the efforts of Wescott, Mathers, and Mackenzie.


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.

George Washington's Oath: So Help Me God

by Midnight Freemasons Founder
Todd E. Creason

"So help me God, and keep me steadfast in the due performance of the same."

~Duncan's Ritual

We've all heard that phrase in our Lodges before.  It is with those words we take a solemn oath--and then we kiss the Holy Bible.  It's been a Masonic tradition for a long time.  It has long been held that George Washington took that Masonic tradition with him when he was sworn in as President of the United States.  He added the words "so help me God" to the end of his oath of office, and then kissed the Holy Bible--a Masonic altar Bible that was provided by St. John's Lodge No. 1 in New York no less.  And according to tradition, every United States President has added those four words "so help me God" to the end of their oath of office ever since.  It's a great story.  But there's a couple problems with that story. 

Most of us know that the words "so help me God" are not part of the oath as it's presented in the Constitution.  Those words were added later, and are considered the President-elect's option to use or exclude.  The fact that the tradition started with George Washington is also been questioned.  Those four words were in use as part of the oath in federal courtrooms at that time, so it was common practice when Washington was sworn in.  But, there is no evidence that Washington added those four words to his Presidential oath of office.  Comte de Moustier, the French foreign minister, attended the event, and in a long letter recorded the oath verbatim--he did not include the words "so help me God" in his account.  And for Washington, a man who presided over the Constitutional Convention in 1787, it would have been out of character for him to have changed those words recorded in the Constitution. 
The Washington Bible
So did George Washington kiss the Bible?  We don't know that for sure either, but it is less hotly debated than whether or not he said "so help me God" at the end of the oath.  The source of much of this legend of the Washington inaugural came into existence 60 years after the event, and can be attributed to Washington Irving.  Irving, as we all know, knew how to tell a story as we may remember from his famous stories "Rip Van Winkle" and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." 

So did Washington say "so help me God" and kiss the Bible?  We don't really know.  He may have done one, or the other, or neither.  Maybe he did both.  Or perhaps it was a great story shared by a great storyteller, Washington Irving. 

However, I like to think he did.  He was a Freemason, and as we all know those traditions become ingrained in us.  It becomes habit.  How many of us have accidentally said "so mote it be" after a prayer in our church on Sunday morning?  I have.  History very often misses the small details in very important events--especially small details that are familiar or commonplace by those attending.  Until we figure out time travel and go back and watch the event, we'll never know for sure.  Either way, it's either a great story about the great man George Washington, or it's a great story written by a great man Washington Irving.  Take your pick. 

What we do know, is the first real evidence that the phrase "so help me God" was used in the Presidential oath was in September 1881 when Chester Arthur was inaugurated.  There's no question about it--he said it.  Whether anyone did prior to Chester Arthur is anybody's guess.  However, we also know without question, that those optional words "so help me God" have been used by every President* since Chester Arthur, including our most recent President, Donald J. Trump.

And that's the truth as I know it . . . So help me God


*There is one possible exception.  Teddy Roosevelt according to one source was reported to have said "and thus I swear" rather than "so help me God."  

Todd E. Creason, 33°, FMLR is the Founder of the Midnight Freemasons blog and is a regular contributor.  He is the award winning author of several books and novels, including the Famous American Freemasons series. He is the author of the From Labor to Refreshment blog.  He is the Worshipful Master of Homer Lodge No. 199 and a Past Master of Ogden Lodge No. 754, where is currently serves as Secretary.  He is the Sovereign Master of the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees.  He is a Fellow at the Missouri Lodge of Research. (FMLR) and a charter member of a new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter U.D.  You can contact him at:

Put Down Your Phone (And Live Happily Ever After)

by Midnight Freemasons Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners

May is Mental Health Awareness month.  In my mind, one of the major causes of mental health issues is our dependence on technology, especially social media.  I'm not pointing fingers at anyone here, I'm as guilty as everyone else when it comes to social media use.  However, I wanted to begin with a story about being tethered to a phone.  

I used to have a job that I was on call for all of the time.  It didn't matter what time of the day the phone rang or when a text came in to join another conference call, the expectation was that I was on the call.  I missed a lot of my kids growing up because of this.  The job took a lot of time that I should have been spending with them from me.  I wasted too many years of my life on a job that was toxic because I didn't know any better or I was afraid of losing income.  When I left that job and got another at in a healthy non-toxic environment, my life changed for the better.  I regained a lot of time that I was then able to reinvest into repairing my relationship with my children and Freemasonry.  

I went to a baseball game last weekend, and it amazed me to look around to see so many people on their phones.  Now given the result of the game not being in favor of the home team, that might be the cause of it, but I challenge you to look around at any sporting event, concert, or another public gathering and count the number of people on their phone, either to record the event or just to distract themselves.  Given the amount of money that tickets to either a baseball game or concert cost, don't you think that you should be putting the phone down and just enjoying the moment that you paid so much money for?  Don't even get me started about Lodge.  Like I said, I can't say that I'm innocent of either.  I have posts of videos taken at concerts on social media, and I have taken my phone out at lodge during a stated meeting to check my email, texts, or social media.  So much for leaving the profane world behind.  

When I start to personally examine these behaviors, I realize something that is so hard to do at that moment.   What I realize is that if I don't record the concert, somebody else is probably going to and put it on YouTube and that I should just enjoy the concert with the person or people that I'm with; because those are the moments that you can't get back.  The same with the email or social media during the lodge meeting.  The email, texts, and social media posts are going to be there after the meeting.  But like I said, it's difficult to realize that at that moment. You probably have that feeling of ennui sneak in and you want so desperately to look at your phone even though you're really not bored.  I'm having it right now, my brain is telling me to look at my phone, to check social media, and there's a conscious feeling of discomfort in my frontal lobe because I'm not doing it.  It is akin to the feeling I used to get when I quit smoking cigarettes when I really wanted a cigarette and I had to power through that moment and resist the temptation. 

While the American Psychiatric Association does not officially recognize the condition of phone addiction, I can tell you as an ex-smoker that I personally know what the symptoms of withdrawal are from something that you are addicted to, and that I have seen the symptoms in myself and others around me when they are unable to use their phones.  Am I saying that I'm addicted to my phone?  No, but I am saying that I see signs that I am probably using it too much.  So in order to give it a name for the purposes of the article, I am going to call it addiction.   

According to the addiction center ( phone addiction may lead to the below (which is taken verbatim from the above site and placed in italics to denote this). 

Sleep deficit
Lower concentration
Creativity blocks
Aggravated ADD
Reduced cognition
Impaired relationships
Poor grades
Psychological disorders

Chronic phone use can also cause other physical dysfunctions, like GABA (a neurotransmitter in the brain) dysfunction and a loss of grey matter in the brain, which are highly correlated to substance use disorders.

Chronic phone overuse is proven to change reward circuits in the brain chemically. One of the primary affected neurotransmitters is gabapentin (GABA). GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that produces a calming or euphoric effect. It can even control fear and anxiety. The inhibitor plays a significant role in addiction by rewarding substance use and reinforcing addictive behaviors.

Research shows that chronic phone use can increase or decrease GABA production. Disturbances to the GABA system are proven to be a warning sign of addiction. In a study by the Radiological Society of North America, heavy phone use was linked to an upsetting ratio of GABA to other neurotransmitters. When the teen test subjects received cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for the disorder, their brain chemistry reverted to a non-addicted ratio.  

Grey matter in the brain is connected to the part of the central nervous system responsible for enabling individuals to control movement, memory, and emotions. A recent study scanned participants’ brains with a phone addiction and discovered a change in their brain’s grey matter. According to the researchers, the physical shape and size of their brains resembled that of drug users. Grey matter volume among people addicted to their phones diminished in critical areas, a condition similarly observed in people with a substance use disorder.

It is important to note that there has also been a rise in depression and suicide among teenagers in recent years correlated to phone addiction. Adolescent girls are particularly susceptible to the risk. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 2010-2015, the suicide rate rose by 65%. At the same time, the rate of severe depression among girls increased by 58%. Many researchers believe the rise in suicides is a direct reflection of the negative effects of phone addiction.

Bro. Manly P. Hall prophetically saw the danger coming from technology in the 1960s. In his lecture, “How to Turn Off the TV in One Easy Lesson and Live Happily Ever After”.  He stated when discussing watching television programming that:  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 a humdrum which is only one step above animal existence. This means that in some respect we need creative programs. Now, a creative program is something that we do because, basically, we want to express ourselves. We do not wish merely to do what everyone else does, we want to do something that will satisfy our own inner impulses, but for the most part these impulses are not active enough to give us any positive directive. So it seems that one thing we have to do to get away from this "hypnosis of the tube" is to realize that we have faculties within ourselves that do not need to be subjected to this continual negative conditioning, that we are certainly capable of thinking rather than merely watching the antics of someone else.  

In order to solve this problem and overcome the "hypnosis of the tube", He stated:  Now, something has to happen to change our way of life from admiring the creations of others to the development of creative capacity in ourselves. So if we want to really have a great history, we can study our own inner lives, if we want great theatre, we can be both the audience and the cast, if we want any of the inner understandings which make for philosophy, mysticism and so forth, they are all available inside of ourselves. The only thing we have got to do is bring it out, and we bring it out by dedication, gaining strength in the inner life just as an athlete gains it by daily discipline; by the proper mental emotional disciplines we can become healthy individuals in terms of our minds, our emotions, our hearts and our jobs. These are the things we've got to work for and if it means that we must do it, we can with one quick twist of the wrist get rid of most of the corruptions of society and face the fact that these are imaginary corruptions. We’ve got plenty of real ones; we don’t have to build them up that way. What we have got to do is find out what corruptions are still lurking in us and correct them, and as soon as we correct the mistakes in ourselves, we begin to see better values in other people, because we see in others usually what we are ourselves focused upon. So, don’t let the great Big Bad Tube get you (laugh), be very careful about it and when uncertain – TURN IT OFF (big laugh), and you will find as you turn it off to do something interesting, beautiful or wonderful, you will never miss it again. You cannot turn it off successfully, however, until there is something you want to be, or something you want to do, right then and there, that is more important than the tube. If you think it out that way, I think it will all work out alright in the end.  

I want you to think about what Bro. Hall says above, and how it applies to us and our work as Freemasons to turn the rough ashlar into the perfect ashlar.  While he is basing his observations on the television which was the 1960s was still in its infancy, his words can be taken and applied to anything with a screen.  Is it possible that the rise in mental health issues we have seen in this country is due in part to the changes that take place in our brain chemically due to a bombardment from television, video games, computers, phones?  I can't answer that question as I'm not a mental health professional, but I would venture to say that it probably is a contributing factor.  

What I worry about is things like how social media maybe causing our attention spans to shorten, and if we are and have unintentionally giving ourselves Adult Attention Deficit Disorder.  Again, I'm not a mental health professional, but continually scrolling through social media, especially platforms like Tik Tok where the maximum video time is 3 minutes has to be having an impact on us.  When I put on my tinfoil hat, I often tell Midnight Freemason Senior Contributor Greg Knott my belief that Tik Tok was socially engineered by the Chinese to dumb down our population and lower our attention spans.  Of course, I have no proof of this being true, and there are some really good people and Brothers to follow on Tik Tok, like my co-editor (RJ Johnson). There's also a ton of garbage on there as well, and the app is designed to allow you to scroll through the garbage to get to the good stuff or to customize your feed by only viewing the people you follow, but the point still stands that the endless scrolling through Facebook, Tik Tok, Instagram, Reddit, or whatever your social media of choice is has to be having some effect.  Or maybe I'm just a luddite. 

What I wanted to do with this article is dispense some light and challenge the brethren that read the blog to do something radical.  That challenge is to put your phone down and live happily ever after.  Now given the nature of everything that our phones do for each of us in our modern society, I know it's difficult to even think about doing this, but I want you to do me a favor.  I want you to look at your amount of screen time, or turn on the screen time monitoring on your device and go about your normal business for a week.  Then I want you to go back and look at how much time you are spending on your phone, especially on social media.  After you do this, I want you to think about that 24-inch gauge we learn about in the First Degree.  Are you managing your time wisely?  Are you spending too much time looking at your phone?

If you answered yes to the last question above, I want you to do me a favor.  I want you to put the phone down and do something that doesn't require you to look at a screen.  Yes, maybe this is hypocritical from the IT worker that is writing an article for the Midnight Freemason blog at 7:20 pm the night before it's going to go live.  I've been starting at a computer screen for about 10 hours today.  I get it, how can you take me seriously when I'm asking you to stop looking at your phone.  I guess you can't.  But maybe because you're reading this, and hopefully enjoying it, you will see I'm creating something for you to enjoy and you can give me some grace and listen to me. Look at the picture at the top of the article and do one of those instead of looking at your phone, or to spin it Masonically, pick some ritual and learn it.  Replace some of that time you're spending mindlessly scrolling through your phone to improve yourself as a man and a Mason.   

My point is to take care of yourself and those around you. Time is our most precious commodity and the sands in the hourglass are running.  We don't know how much time we have left before we go to the lodge on high, so take the time to put your phone down more and really live life.  Tell those people that you love that you love them as much as possible, and hug your kids, parents, pets, spouse or significant other as much as possible.  Create opportunities to really connect with your family and friends, to have a face-to-face conversation. Declare the next family gathering you host a phone-free zone or your next family dinner.  Make it a challenge or a game, and make those that look at their phone put a dollar in a jar every time they do it and donate that money to a charity.  Whatever you're missing on social media, or in your email or texts will be there for you after you've lived your life unplugged for a few hours.  Maybe you can turn that few hours into half a day, or maybe a whole day from time to time.  Maybe you'll realize that you don't need it as much as you think you do.  I want you to pay close attention to how you feel when you're away from your screen. As much as it might be hard to do at first, my guess is that it will become easier to do the more you practice doing it.  I also suspect that the enjoyment of the other activities you're doing while not looking at your phone might help you to continue to do it. With practice, you might actually feel like you're living happily ever after, even if it's only for a few hours.


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 also a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, a charter member of Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282, Salt Fork Shrine Club under the Ansar Shrine, and a grade one (Zelator) in the S.C.R.I.F. Prairieland College in Illinois. You can reach him by email at

The Occult Lodge: Part Four

Masonic Magic to Mysticism 
by Midnight Freemason Contributor 
Bro. James E. Frey 32° KT, ROS
Martinist Regalia

During the time in which the original Elu Cohen was in operation, Martinez de Pasqually took an apprentice by the name of Louis Claude de St.-Martin. Louis Claude de St.-Martin was born in 1743 to a religious family of minor French nobility. St. Martin was admitted into the Order of Elu Cohen around 1767, but prior to that had been admitted to an unknown Masonic lodge in 1750 as well as an initiate to the Rite of the Strict Observance in 1773. St. Martin became the secretary of the Elu Cohen from 1768 to 1771. This is when he met Willermoz who was the head of the Elu Cohen lodge. St. Martin was inspired by the philosophy and teachings of Pasqually and sought to integrate then with the Rite of Strict Observance. The Rite of Strict Observance was founded by Baron Karl Gotthelf von Hund in 1749, and was based on the myth of a direct lineage to the original Knights Templar which was received by an “Unknown Superior” in Paris in 1742.

St. Martin became more and more disengaged with ceremonial magic of the Elect Priests and began to wonder if all the magic circles and ritual elements were necessary to experience the presence of God. St.-Martin saw one’s spiritual path as an internal work, which he called the “way of the heart”.

St. Martin believed that Christ was the Word or the Gnosis as written in the gospel of St. John, and this Word was with Man in the beginning, but had been lost. Only through recovery of this lost Word could Man be whole and Reintegrated into the presence of God. . St. Martin began to publish his philosophy under the pen name the Unknown Philosopher. Not only did St. Martin have dislike for the ritualized working of the Elu Cohen, he also began to question the necessity of ritual in a Masonic setting as well. In July of 1790, he left Freemasonry in order to focus on his contemplative “Way of the Heart” until his death in 1803.

The French Revolution, though destructive for all of France, was equally devastating for St. Martin’s path of Martinism. St. Martin had few disciples but his teachings survived through a lineage of student to teacher aural recounting until in 1891 when a student named GĂ©rard Encausse desired to reform the Order of Martinism. Taking the name Papus he claimed a succession from Augustin Chaboseau and Henri Delaage supposedly going back to St.-Martin himself. Papus reformed Martinism into a Masonic structure, of a series of three degrees which were reminiscent of the Craft Degrees of Freemasonry, but with a mystical emphasis. Usually referred to as Associate, Initiate, and S:I:. This newly-organized system of Martinism became associated with the French Gnostic movement and has long been associated with the tradition of the ‘Episcopi Vagantes’ or “Wandering Bishops”, and Encausse was most certainly made a bishop.

The three-degree system of modern Martinism borrowed Masonic symbolism, such as the pillars of Solomon’s Temple, and added Kabbalistic and Gnostic emphasis to lead the Initiate into a deeper understanding of the nature of Polarity as it occurs in both Nature and the mind of Man. There was also some borrowing from the Mark Master degree in order to gain a deeper appreciation of the True Meaning of the Stone that the Builders rejected as a symbol for the Christos. This rebirth in Martinism is a part of a larger cultural movement of the time referred to as the Occult Reformation.


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.