Understanding Why Your Committee May Not Have a Team Agenda

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Mark St. Cyr

Since the masonic world appears to revolve around the idea and creation of committees, I penned the following that may help spread some light on why things may not be happening in ways that are assumed. This issue is very common and most don’t fully appreciate it, let alone, consider it fully. 

In the world of business, we hear from just about anyone who  strides a stage or whips out the PowerPoint® presentation  that it’s about “Teams.” They blather ad nauseam about team building. Most regurgitate so many old and tired metaphors to emphasize their points one needs to wonder if they purchased them by the ton.  

Here’s just one: “There’s no 'I' in Team!”  

Back in the day I swore if I ever heard that one again I would walk out of the meeting even if it meant I would be fired.  Enough already, what’s next “Right brain, Left brain  thinking?” Forget the pink slip. Save a tree and I’ll leave  right now was my initial reaction to most of this so-called  “insight.” 

Note: The whole “Left brain, right brain…” thing was disproved scientifically almost as fast as it was told and sold. 

But that hasn’t stopped the endless “New and Improved!”  versions to be authored and then embraced by clueless managements or HR departments. But I digress. 

Let me dispel something else that most don’t fully  understand when it comes to the idea of “team building.”  

A committee can not only cause your team to lose but may actually prefer it. Yes, I just said that. 

Teams and team building is what most say they want their organization to resemble. The problem is most never understand that on a team there can not be any winners or losers within the team without affecting the well-being of the team. Here’s an example: 

When you have one person who can win at the expense of another you don’t have a team - you have a committee.  

The two are similar when viewed from a distance however they are geared and designed to exploit very different objectives. 

Teams share a common goal. That goal could be winning a  game, designing a new widget, or a research project just to name a few. Everyone on the team shares the common quest for the attainment or successful outcome of the project. 

However, if for some reason one person’s input (on the team)  needs to be discounted or not used, that person is neither to be offended nor felt left out. 

Exp: Maybe they’ll need to switch roles, or work on something that seems unrelated to outsiders. But for the winning of the team in its goal - nothing is too big or too small a chore. (Think “Left fielder” moving to “Batting  coach” to possibly win the championship as an example.) 

On a team, the team winning is all that matters, even if it means one of the members needs to be sidelined or  “benched” staying with the sports analogy. But make no mistake. That is not the way committees work, and that’s what most are, but they call themselves the former. 

Committees are important and necessary. They allow for different teams to coalesce and fight for why their project,  research, and others have a need. Another would be to validate their funding. You get the idea.  

But unlike a team - the members on a committee don’t share  the most fundamental principle needed for a team, which is: 

In a committee, someone can win big while another can lose.  (and lose big!) Here’s an example: 

In a committee made up of different department heads let’s say the warehouse department wants more influence or control of inventory decisions, despite that control would entail hindering the purchasing department.  

Here’s why this could be an issue with disastrous implications…

While the warehouse department might win the argument for  having the control (e.g., “We’ll tell you what can or can not,  and by how much, will be put into the warehouse.”), the purchasing department would in effect be losing.  

For inherent with that decision the purchasing department possibly can’t, or won’t via negative connotations, take advantage of offers for some deeply discounted volume buys that would give the sales force an edge over the competition.  Why? 

Because the arguments over control have been decided by the committee to reside with the warehouse. i.e., “Sorry, no room  but thanks for asking.”  

The warehouse might now be running like a Swiss clock, but other departments, or the company as a whole, could suffer greatly.  

Said differently… 

The warehouse has won the battle for control where there’s now little product coming in as well as going out. Everyone within the warehouse applauds their “management” for making their shipping procedures completely predictable and their workload far less stressful. All the while… 

Their competition has loaded up and is bulging at the seams with discounted products they're able to now sell at double the profit margin to all the customers of the “winning warehouse” purveyor. But not to worry, for all the chaos probably happening within the warehouse at said competition… 

For it won’t be long before they’ll be able to pick up more warehouse space - at a deep discount - when that efficiently run committee-driven warehouse company needs to file for bankruptcy. 

Understanding this dichotomy and managing each effectively is what sets winning teams or companies apart. 

Mark St.Cyr 

Freemason

Contemplate in different environments - Outdoors

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Randy Sanders


This Masonic contemplation series focuses on simple exercises we can incorporate to make use of our time in different circumstances, in different environments, to further strengthen our minds and sharpen our focus.  Mindfulness and reaching an altered state of consciousness are different concepts, but both are useful and can be combined during a meditative session.  Let’s explore a scenario and put some context around it.


Mindfulness exercises can be as simple as setting a timer and focusing on some activity, or simply focusing on one single activity through completion.  Accessing the altered state of consciousness is more difficult at first, but becomes easier with practice.  Advanced practitioners reach a point where it becomes easy to tune into the body (body awareness) and find that deeper relaxation through even a few breaths or moments of concentration.  As Masons, you learned the most valuable lesson is Prayer, and applying that lesson now is suggested.


Outdoors


As we look at different environments for contemplative practice, how can we not look at the outdoors, or a park like setting, for both mindfulness and accessing the altered consciousness.  Any nature walk, visit to a botanical garden, zoo, park, trail, or even your own backyard gives access to a simple connection with nature.  


As a mindfulness exercise, lets walk with purpose and attention.  Slow your pace, slow it more.  Now feel the bottoms of your feet as they walk, heel-to-toe.  What does the sock feel like against your skin?  Or maybe we are barefoot, and we can feel the grass against the soles of our feet and toes?  What do the muscles feel like in the ankle, the lower leg, the knee, and the upper legs?


As a contemplative exercise, either close your eyes or focus on one thing directly in front of you such as a tree, and take 4 long, deep breaths.  The first breath is to allow you to better focus on the next three breaths.  Contemplative work is often done while in a sitting or relaxed pose.  When you consider Chi Kung, Tai Chi or other martial arts, or even some Yoga practices, standing and walking also become a contemplative practice method.  Taking the mindfulness exercise above, we build upon that exercise and focus on any object ahead of you on the trail as you walk.  If you are standing or sitting, do the same but with a tree or bush in front of you.  Stretch the breaths to 60 or maybe 90, and let the relaxation of the breathing take you into a deep relaxed state.


A couple of minutes each day can make a difference, so why not incorporate quick, simple exercises into your daily routines?


~RS


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.

Jacob's Ladder - You Don't Know, What You Don't Know

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson


There are a number of symbols within Freemasonry, and there are no shortage of explanations and attributions for them. No doubt some are ancient and thus indisputable in their meaning e.g. The Circumpunct, meaning Deity, Self, and even a modern attribution in the ages of science as the pictograph for Gold (AU). Others, like the explanations of how to wear your apron, have assigned value that was done much later. Examples being the spiritual (triangle) over the square (physical). These and others are romantic, and yet are an invention of "modern" times. How do we know this? Because the shapes of aprons are of modern design, themselves attributed to the ease of manufacturing. This has been talked and written about ad nauseam. 

Another great example is the placement of the "G" within the Square and Compasses. This too is a "modern" and geographical adaptation. It's distinctly American and the items for which it is supposed to be representative of, only begins with the letter "G" in a few languages, thus rendering it "un-universal". This of course doesn't mean it shouldn't be used or that just because we thought it was cool and invented some concept to attribute to the symbol, even after the fact, and much later, we should drop it. To the contrary, if the assigned value assists you in determining a symbols personal value, than go nuts. But, we should always be honest about our symbols and understand our historical roots. 

We should in fact be arming our new Masons with the ritual teachings, and also the historically and contextually accurate information as well. Yes, I just alluded to the fact that ritual is not factually or historically correct. It is a symbolic work. The writers of the ritual most certainly thought some elements were fact, as they were taken from the Tanach (Septuagint). They likely used these allegories to drive home points, and embellished where they needed to. That's okay, because it's symbolic. It's a vehicle to assist you from getting from point A to point B cognitively, and hopefully changing the way you think in order to change your outward and inward behaviors. 

The stance I take here in no way is meant to take away from the esoteric value of the aftermarket attributions we tend to place on the symbols. Again, if this assists you in manifesting your destiny, then this is the "flourish" that is right for you. And the flip side to this, is that when we dig deeper into the historical and contextual meanings of symbols, we often find something even more complex and deeper than anything we'd thought of before! It pays to research, both externally and internally. 

At this point in the blog post I thought I'd have wrapped it up, but in the interest of giving away something, I thought what the heck...So I decided to give a quick gloss over of something. 

I asked myself, "What is a symbol I don't know too much about, outside the ritual and it's immediate biblical associations?" I chose Jacob's Ladder. Here's a brief synopsis of what I knew and felt it meant symbolically, what I learned after brief research and my (possible) new symbolic outlook. 

What I knew Biblical - Genesis 28 - A guy named Jacob (son of Isaac) was traveling, he decided to sleep on the ground and place his head on a rock. While sleeping, he has a vision of a ladder which extends from the Earth to the heavens. Angels went up and down the ladder. When Jacob awoke, he thought it was a miraculous vision. The ladder is seen in the biblical context as the bridge from Earth to the heavens and the rungs and angels signify the many ways we may traverse to the heavens, through sacrifices, prayers and the giving of the Torah. It's a lesson in connection. 

What I knew Masonic - Jacob's ladder also symbolizes the ways in which we may reach a state of "redemption". It is said to have 3 principal rungs which are "Faith", "Hope", and "Charity" (Love). In Masonic teaching, we're told that of these attributes, Charity is the greatest because of its long lasting impact on successive generations of people. Further, in other esoteric circles the ladder may also represent the foundation cord or rope which one travels on their way to the higher realms. The angels representing the different attributes or even Sephiroth. It even has a relation to the Hindu Gunas (3 attributes which must be in balance to escape the Samsara). 

What I learned - The idea of the ladder, like much of the Tanach is taken from earlier texts from without the system. The ladder itself exists in other cultures and is used in their religious and initiatory rites. It is used as a way to symbolize the steps upward or progressive, through a set of degrees or rites of passages. While in Freemasonry we give the allegory of just three "principal" rounds, most traditions which are older give it seven steps. Perhaps the three principal rounds are evenly distributed (first, fourth, and seventh). The number seven has it's various attributions that we're all familiar with. One Mackey points out is that the seven rungs in Freemasonry are attributed toward the Earthly virtues ad te Divine Virtues, Namely, Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence and Justice, plus Faith, Hope and Charity. 

The Persians used a variation of the ladder and they used the number seven. It represented the soul's progression toward perfection. They referred to each round as a "gate". During the "Persian Mysteries", it was necessary for candidates to progress through winding cavernous spaces (7 in total). Each cavern representative of a world or more aptly some sort of representation for the state of humanity and or the mind. The last cavern or world being called "Truth", which is very interesting when we look at the Hindu philosophy of Absolute Truth and how even that relates to the preeminent Masonic virtue of Truth. 

Mackey's Masonic Encyclopedia gives us this table explaining these rounds of the ladder. You move from the base (1) to the top (7).
7. Gold .............. Sun ............... Truth
6. Silver ............. Moon ........... Mansion of the Blessed
5. Iron ............... Mars ............ World of Births
4. Tin ................ Jupiter ......... Middle World
3. Copper .......... Venus .......... Heaven
2. Quicksilver ... Mercury ....... World of Pre-existence
1. Lead ............. Saturn .......... First World
Above I made a few cryptic references to Hinduism and it's teachings. There is an entire paper's worth of significance here that we could go into, and I will...for the Lodge of Research. 😁

For those that are intent on discovering even more about the historical and contextual meanings of Jacob's Ladder, I invite you to look in Mackey's Encyclopedia as a first step. Then I would recommend looking at concepts within Mackey's as referenced in other books of the same nature, before finally venturing out into the world of archaeological papers (non fraternal) for an un-Masonic and unbiased look as well. What truths you find in the non-masonic, which align with the Masonic, may very well be your best argument for what is true. Have fun!

We don't know, what we don't know!

~RHJ

RWB, Robert Johnson is the Managing Editor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He is a Freemason out of the 2nd N.E. District of Illinois. He currently serves as the Secretary of Spes Novum Lodge No. 1183. He is a Past Master of Waukegan Lodge 78 and a Past District Deputy Grand Master for the 1st N.E. District of Illinois. Brother Johnson currently produces and hosts weekly Podcasts (internet radio programs) Whence Came You? & Masonic Radio Theatre which focus on topics relating to Freemasonry. He is also a co-host of The Masonic Roundtable, a Masonic talk show. He is a husband and father of four, works full time in the executive medical industry. He is the co-author of "It's Business Time - Adapting a Corporate Path for Freemasonry" and is currently working on a book of Masonic essays and one on Occult Anatomy to be released soon.


It's Masonic Con Season!

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
RWB:. R.H. Johnson



It's June! This time of year is marked by Lodges getting back to work. And in so doing, we're seeing a major influx of presentations at the local and jurisdictional levels. If you're an active Brother, you're undoubtedly busy as all heck trying to make it to all the Masonic Education you can. It's like open season!

The year really kicked off with the Midwest Conference on Masonic Education (MCME1949.org). Read about the experience in this month's The Lyceum (The Grand Lodge of Illinois Education Publication). After that, the Masonic Restoration Foundation held its first in-person meeting in quite some time.

Just this last weekend, I was at the 4th annual Esotericon--in-person after a two-year stint of being entirely virtual. It was epic. Great speakers all around. The weekend before that was the Original Masonic-Con Event, kicked off several years ago by Ezekial Bates Masonic Lodge. This time around, it moved to Manchester, New Hampshire.

You might be curious about what's next...I'm glad you asked. The next Masonic Con event will be South Pasadena Masonic Lodge (SPML) Masonic Con - www.MasonicCon.com. There will be many speakers you all know and love, a major pop-culture festive board, and more. Then in August, both Masonic Con Texas and Masonic Con Kansas! That's right! For the first time since Masonic Con Chicago--a Masonic Education conference descends on the Midwest. You can catch all the details at MasoncicConKansas.com

If that isn't enough, how about the first-ever Allied Masonic Degrees Illinois Ingathering? This event will be on September 17th, 2022, in Bloomington Normal, Illinois. A full schedule is forthcoming.

I hope you all travel, fellowship, and learn together!

~RHJ

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

Contemplate in different environments - Work

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Randy Sanders


This Masonic contemplation series focuses on simple exercises we can incorporate to make use of our time in different circumstances, in different environments, to further strengthen our minds and sharpen our focus.  Mindfulness and reaching an altered state of consciousness are different concepts, but both are useful and can be combined during a meditative session.  Let’s explore a scenario and put some context around it.


Mindfulness exercises can be as simple as setting a timer and focusing on some activity, or simply focusing on one single activity through completion.  Accessing the altered state of consciousness is more difficult at first, but becomes easier with practice.  Advanced practitioners reach a point where it becomes easy to tune into the body (body awareness) and find that deeper relaxation through even a few breaths or moments of concentration.  As Masons, you learned the most valuable lesson is Prayer, and applying that lesson now is suggested.


Work/Office


As we look at different environments for contemplative practice, I highly recommend work, or the office, for both mindfulness and accessing the altered consciousness.  We spend 40+ hours each week in the office or work, and why not use it for our own personal growth and benefit?


As a mindfulness exercise set a timer for a couple of minutes, or possibly set your phone alarm for 2-3 minutes in the future.  We tend to focus on what we’re typing, or what we’re doing onscreen.  For the 2-3 minutes exercise, let’s just focus on the feeling of our fingers moving across the keyboard or the arm and hand as we transition to the mouse.  What does the hand feel like as it rests at the base of the keyboard?  What do the tips of the fingers feel as they touch the keys?  Which thumb do you preferentially use when hitting the space bar?  What does the rest of your body feel like while sitting there typing?


As a contemplative exercise, either close your eyes or focus on one thing directly in front of you, and take 4 long, deep breaths.  The first breath is to allow you to better focus on the next three breaths.  I like to use this exercise to clear negativity and stress, so as you breathe in, let us focus on bringing in good, clean air, and as we exhale imagine a little cloud of dark negativity and stress being kicked out of the body and mind.  In with the good air, out with the bad, right?


A couple of minutes each day can make a difference, so why not incorporate quick, simple exercises into your daily routines?


~RS


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.

Billy Graham: Freemason Or Not?



"Give me five minutes with a person's checkbook, and I will tell you where their heart is."

~Reverend Billy Graham




Harry S. Truman and Billy Graham
Another person that is often cited as being a Freemason is Billy Graham.  It's hard to say where this rumor began, but as with so many of these cases, the "evidence" seems to be centered on photos of awkward handshakes. 

Perhaps part of it was this photo of Billy Graham and Harry S. Truman shaking hands.  Truman was a very active Freemason before, during and after his Presidency, and was the Past Grand Master of Masons in Missouri.  The rumor about Rev. Graham has persisted for years, however, Billy Graham is not a Freemason.  He's made that quite clear, and his organization even released this email nearly fifteen years ago. 


Subject: Freemason

Date: Wed, 16 Jul 97 11:23:21 -0500


From: dkinde@graham-assn.org (Don Kinde)

Thank you for your e-mail message. We understand your concern about rumors that Mr. Graham is in some way associated with Freemasonry. The reports are erroneous — though we continue to hear them. Mr. Graham is not, has not been and does not expect ever to be involved in Freemasonry. Your help in keeping the record as accurate as possible would be much appreciated.


Sincerely,


Don Kinde
Christian Guidance Department
Billy Graham Evangelistic Association
So that should answer that question beyond a shadow of a doubt.  Billy Graham is not a Freemason.  Period.


~TEC

Murder And Treason Excepted - Revisit

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


I recently produced a Benedict Arnold video for the Whence Came You podcast.  The gist of its message is this: had a wound Arnold received in the Revolutionary War's second Battle of Saratoga been fatal, he would today be considered a great American hero.  

Having been appointed commander of the fort at West Point, Arnold contacted British Major John Andre, offering to surrender the fort to the British in exchange for an unspecified high rank and £20,000 (Roughly £2.7 million or $4 million today) .  West Point was located on the Hudson River; had the British taken control of the fort they would have controlled the river and probably turned the tide in the Revolution to their favor.  The plan fell apart when Andre was caught and, on October 2, 1780, executed as a spy.  

The British, in turn, gave Arnold the rank of Brigadier General and reduced his payment to £6,315 (£850,000/$1.25 million), since the plot failed.  Arnold moved to England and lived in relative obscurity until his death in 1801.

The video itself, a short vignette which can be seen at http://bit.ly/1VnDgVZ, doesn't tell the full story.  In researching the piece, I discovered some additional things about Benedict Arnold worth sharing:

Arnold was an active member of Hiram Lodge 1, New Haven, Connecticut.  After his act of sedition, the Lodge struck his name from its records, as did other Lodges Arnold had visited.

Benedict Arnold's father was Benedict Arnold III.  He also had an older brother named... Benedict Arnold.  It was his family's tradition to have a son with that name in each generation.  His older brother died before he was born and the family gave him the same name.  His full name was, in fact, Benedict Arnold V.

Arnold was a deserter in the French-Indian war, even though under extenuating circumstances.  He received word his mother had contracted Yellow Fever and left the battlefield to be with her.  She died shortly after he returned home.

Arnold's first profession, at 21, was a shopkeeper, selling medicines and books.  

He became a trader, a profession made difficult by the taxes the British levied to maintain the colonies.  Subsequently, to avoid the taxes, he became a smuggler.

He was catapulted to hero status when, together with Ethan Allen, he captured Fort Ticonderoga early in the American Revolution.

He led  a march to Quebec in 1775, in an effort to capture the city and make Canada the 14th colony!  When General Montgomery, who was supporting him, died, the mission failed.

Arnold again was considered a hero at the Battle of Valcour Island in the American Revolution.    He felt he should have been promoted as a result of this victory, but others were promoted over him, beginning his resentment toward the American cause.

He subsequently drove the British to the sea and was made a Major General.  With other less deserving men still superior to him, his resentment continued.

When General Horatio Gates hesitated to advance at Saratoga, Arnold took command and defeated the British.  Arnold was wounded in his left leg for the third time in his career.  He clearly was responsible for the victory but Gates snatched the glory and accepted British General Burgoyne's sword.  To add further insult, Arnold was placed under arrest for disobeying orders.  

In order to impress the father of Peggy Shipman, he purchased a 96 acre estate and subsequently married her.  The remaining money he owed on the estate sunk his finances.

When he cooked up his plot  to surrender West Point, he gave Major John Andre a pass to get him through American lines.  Andre was robbed.  When the robbers-turned-patriots discovered Andre was a spy, they arrested him and showed the pass to George Washington.  That tipped Washington off that Arnold was a traitor, and Washington immediately set out to arrest him.  Arnold escaped with only minutes to spare.  Although she knew about the plot, his wife Peggy somehow convinced Washington she was innocent.

The British made Benedict Arnold a Brigadier General in the British Army.  Americans hated him and the British resented him.  No one trusts a traitor.

An apocraphyl story claims George Washington was so angry at and so reviled Arnold he decreed his name should never be written down; subsequently he had the gravestones of Arnold's father and brother of the same name removed.  Indeed, records at Old Northtown Cemetery in Connecticut, where his father is buried, indicate "Gravestone removed in 1781."

Also, a marker known as the "Boot Monument" at Saratoga battlefield honors Arnold's heroism without naming him.  The boot commemorates the wound he received to his leg without otherwise recognizing a traitor.

The Boot Monument at Saratoga Battlefield honors 
Benedict Arnold, but does not mention his name.
In the end, Benedict Arnold regretted his seditious actions.  Knowing he was dying, he put on his former uniform and said, "Let me die in my old American uniform — The uniform in which I fought my battles.  God forgive me for ever putting on any other."

It may have been a noble thought, but it's doubtful anyone, including his former Brothers choose to forgive him.  After all, whether it be secrets or vile deeds, we Freemasons have a saying, "murder and treason excepted."

~SLH

Bro. Steve Harrison, 33°, is Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri. He is the editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine, author of the book Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi, a Fellow of the Missouri Lodge of Research and also its Worshipful Master. He is a dual member of Kearney Lodge #311, St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite, Moila Shrine and a member and Past Dean of the DeMolay Legion of Honor. Brother Harrison is a regular contributor to the Midnight Freemasons blog as well as several other Masonic publications. His latest book, Freemasons: Tales From the Craft & Freemasons at Oak Island. Both are available on amazon.com.

Are You The Next Midnight Freemason?

by Midnight Freemason Founder 
Todd E. Creason, 33°
 
Midnight Freemasons Founder Todd E. Creason writing after midnight from his bunker (cell) in an undisclosed location.

One of the things that makes the Midnight Freemasons so unique are our contributors, and those particular perspectives they share with our readers. Each of us here at the Midnight Freemasons have our own particular (or peculiar in my case) style and point of view. But almost without exception we write about Freemasonry not just from an academic perspective, but from a personal one. We write about the things we enjoy about the Fraternity. We write about those aspects of the Fraternity that fascinate us.  We talk about the ways we participate in our Lodges. We talk about the impact that Freemasonry has had on our lives—because as I’ve said before, Freemasonry isn't a monthly meeting, it’s a way of life.

But this dynamic we enjoy here certainly wasn’t something we planned back in 2012 when we launched as a contributor blog—it’s something that evolved over time. The strength and the success of our blog has always been dependent on our contributors and the words they’ve shared with us over the years. So I’ll get to the point. 

Do you have something you’ve written that you’d like to share with us? Do you write after midnight from a bunker in an undisclosed location?  That's all you need to be a guest contributor! Send us your piece and we'll look at it! If we like it, we’ll share it with our readers along with your photo and your by-line. 

Who knows, you may very well be invited to become the next Mason to join our family here at the Midnight Freemasons as a Regular Contributor. We’re always looking for new voices. We look forward to hearing from you! 

You can contact our editors at wcypodcast@gmail.com or darin.lahners@gmail.com

~TEC 

Todd E. Creason, 33° 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 a Past Master of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL) where he serves as Secretary. He is a Past Sovereign Master of the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees. He is a Fellow at the Missouri Lodge of Research. (FMLR). He is a charter member of Admiration Chapter No. 282 and is a Past EHP.  

Nevertheless Freemasonry Persisted

by Midnight Freemasons Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners


Last evening under a cloudy sky at Wrigley Field, I watched as thirty-one thousand six hundred and seventy-three fans stopped what they were doing and placed their hand over their heart and sing along to the National Anthem.  Later, when the Cubs honored a veteran, the ballpark was filled with cheers of support and admiration.  I became a little less cynical in those moments, and maybe perhaps a little hopeful.  

What many people don't know, is that the Star-Spangled Banner has four stanzas.  Yet, only the first of the four is sung as the National Anthem. The main theme of the Star-Spangled Banner is persistence, as Bro. Francis Scott Key witnessed the twenty-five-hour bombardment of Fort McHenry from a British troop ship that was anchored four miles away from the fort.  Bro. Key had boarded the ship to negotiate the release of an American civilian imprisoned by the British and was detained as the bombardment began.  On September 14, 1814, as the dawn's early light revealed the flag still flying over the fort, Bro. Key began jotting down the lines of the song that later became our national anthem. 

At that moment last evening, I saw the spirit of Freemasonry come over all of those men and women, democrats and republicans, young and old, of different faiths, Chicago Cubs fans, and St. Louis Cardinal fans.  I saw all of these people come on the level for about a minute and a half to pause to honor our great nation. Yes, our history is not without controversy, our history is not pure, just like my personal history or your personal history.  We, individually, like our nation have made mistakes, and we as a nation and as individuals will continue to make them.  Yet, what I saw at that moment last evening was that we still have the ability to come together in spite of all this.  Maybe it is because of how much Masonic philosophy infiltrated its way into the formation of the documents that began and continue to hold together our nation, at least I like to think that is why.    

While observing this with awe and reverence, I had a revelation.  Freemasonry will persist.  I have spent a lot of time writing articles for the blog about Freemasonry and giving my personal opinions on what can be done to "improve" Freemasonry.  I've seen the projections, and I've watched the presentations showing how our numbers are dwindling. I've read social media posts where brethren are concerned that Freemasonry is going to eventually become another irrelevant fraternal society.  Yet, we can look at the History of Freemasonry and see that, like our flag over Fort McHenry, it has persisted over centuries.  Officially over 300 years, yet maybe further, the first mention of Freemasonry in a document is in Regius Poem from around 1390, and it is thought to be a copy of an earlier work.  

Maybe we no longer have the millions of members in the United States that we once had, and maybe we will end up with only a tenth or even a fifth of that in the next twenty years.    Maybe we will see the merging of various Grand Jurisdictions,  maybe we will witness the demise of some of our appendant bodies, and maybe we won't be able to have a lodge in every county in the United States of America.  I believe that Freemasonry will persist like it always has.  There will always be a core group that will keep Freemasonry alive.

We need to perhaps stop looking at the decline in membership as something that is bad and instead look at it as an opportunity to reset.  It's an opportunity to return to our traditional roots, and to prioritize those things such as Festive boards, Masonic Education, and reverence for the ritual.  It's an opportunity for those of us that want these things to introduce legislation at the Grand Lodge level to allow these things to become the standard instead of the exception. 

At some point, I believe that the pendulum will swing back to a place where there are a lot more men that are called by Freemasonry to reveal and manifest the full meaning of their individual mature masculinity, or their potential.  While not all of the men I encountered last night in the right-field bleachers of Wrigley field are worthy of becoming Freemasons, I do believe that there were perhaps a few.  If I extrapolate this to my own community, I have to believe that there are still a few men that are worthy and well qualified to be called by Freemasonry.  If Freemasonry can continue to persist, then we who love Freemasonry must as well so that we can find these men and help them unlock their potential so that they might come to love Freemasonry as well to help it persist for the next generation, and generations to come. 

~DAL

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 darin.lahners@gmail.com.  

Was Maverick a Freemason and Shriner in the Top Gun Movie?

by Senior Midnight Freemason Contributor
Gregory J. Knott 33° 


Top Gun 2 the movie is set to premiere this week in theaters across the country.  I can’t tell you how many times I have watched the original movie.   When I was in college at Illinois State University, we had a TV and VCR in our fraternity room and always had a hard time getting over the air signals (it was in the dark ages before the internet), so one of the two movies we had in the room was Top Gun, so we watched it over and over to fill time.


The opening scene in the original movie is exciting, as the US Navy is on patrol somewhere in the Pacific with the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise at the center of the action.  Soviet MiG-28 fighter jets appear and F-14A Tomcats are dispatched from the Enterprise to intercept them and defend the carrier group.   Among the pilots dispatched are: Lt. Pete Mitchell, call sign “Maverick” and his radarman Lt. JG Nick “Goose” Bradshaw. Through some outstanding air maneuvers and superb flying, the MiGs are sent away or shot down, led by Maverick and Goose.    


The Commander of the Enterprise (CDR Tom "Stinger" Jardian) has to send an F-14A crew to Miramar for Topgun School.  When his preferred choice is “Cougar” and “Merlin” and unable to attend the school, Jardian is forced to send Maverick and Goose for this elite training program.  


The movie is next set at Miramar, where Maverick and Goose are in competition with many other F-14A crews including Iceman, Hollywood, and others. The top flying crew of the course is considered the “Top Gun” and gets their names on a plaque at the base.  


Maverick proceeds to fall in love with one of the flight instructors Charlotte “Charlie” Blackwood and is doing many things to impress her, especially in the famous Kansas City BBQ, where Goose is playing the piano and he and Maverick are singing Great Balls of Fire. Maverick leaves with Charlie on his motorcycle. 


The plot advances to a scene where Maverick and Goose are playing sand volleyball against Iceman and Slider, their fiercest rivals in the Top Gun competition.  Maverick and Goose prevail over Iceman and Slider.   Maverick, who had continually looked at his watch during the game, is out of time and has to leave.   Despite Goose’s plea for one more game, Maverick has to get going.  Maverick has ridden his motorcycle to the beach volleyball site and grabs his leather flight jacket which is on a set of bleachers, next to a set of motorcycle boots.  He gets his gear and the next scene is Maverick speeding off on his motorcycle. 


Despite how many times I have watched Top Gun, I had never noticed until now, the detail of those motorcycle boots.  On the back of them is what appears to me to be a Shriner emblem with the word “El Ma” above them.  I can’t see the entire word, so it is incomplete.  But there is no doubt that these are Shriner boots.


I am sure there is a backstory somewhere out there as to why these boots appeared in this scene.   Did they belong to a member of the movie crew who was a Shriner?  If you know the story, please let us know!  Comment below or leave a message on our Facebook page.


It was always said that the Top Gun movie was the best advertising for recruiting the US Navy ever had and inspired a generation of young people who became fighter pilots and other roles in the Navy.


It’s fun seeing a small Shriner/Freemason connection in this movie.    I am looking forward to seeing Top Gun 2 soon.   Was Maverick a Freemason and Shriner? Will the Shriner boots reappear in this new version?  We will have to watch to find out.


~GJK   


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.

The Occult Lodge: Part Seven


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

 
 
As occult studies entered into the 20th century its Christian and Kabbalistic influences would fade and occult leaders sought to re-create mythology they found interesting. With Crowley’s achievement in creating his own mythology and esoteric system, it inspired a New Age of occult groups, who began to form and adopt what they wished with very little Masonic influence. This stream of thought is found within society today within the New Age Movement. New Age has very little to do with Masonry objectively, but subjectively it still bears important elements of the lodge structure. New Age often includes types of moon worship, herbs, crystals, types of yoga, meditation, and candle magic. 

This new age movement has a firm foundation in Wiccanism, the claimed modern incarnation of traditional Celtic Druidism and Shamanism. Overall the system is dedicated mostly to elemental energies and some selected planetary energies. But what most Wiccans don’t realize is that their New Age movement had its origins and had been heavily influenced by Freemasonry, even after every prayer they say, "So mote it be."

The founder of Wicca was Gerald Gardner who was born in 1884 to an upper-middle-class family in Lancashire. During his life he worked as a civil servant, author, and amateur anthropologist. Gardner claims he was initiated into Masonry at Sphinx Lodge 113 in 1905, yet no record exists. Gardner claims to have left the Masonic fraternity in 1908 after he had received his Ancient Craft degrees. Interested only in obtaining the secrets of the Craft he took much of the symbolism and teachings to heart and began elaborating them into a system of his own creation.

Gardner worked through the structure of the OTO becoming the head of Britain. It was there  that he began his contact with Aliester Crowley and shared his dreams of founding a Celtic themed magical society. He paid Crowley 200 pounds to write out this system of modern witchcraft and thus Wicca was born. 
  
Crowley and Gardner used the lodge structure and many of the aspects and initiatory rituals of Masonry and incorporated them into Wicca. Compare these aspects of the Wiccan First degree with that of the Entered Apprentice degree; The initiate is blindfolded with a cabletow binding them, representative of the umbilical cord of material life and is conducted to the edge of the Magic Circle which in Masonic terms would be the lodge room. The Initiate is received by the tip of a sword and is told “it is better that thou plunge your heart upon this sword than to enter this circle with fear in your heart, and never to divulge the secrets of your coven” which is almost identical to the reception of the Apprentice.

Both groups venerate the four directions and refer to their work as the craft, and there implements as "working tools". Masonic initiations end with a “Charge to the Candidate or Lodge’ which is a lecture explaining the historical and symbolic lessons of the grade, while Wiccan initiates end with a ‘Charge of the Goddess” which shares much of the same purpose. On the third the Master receives the ‘Five Points of Fellowship’ while the Wiccan, on their, third initiation receive the ‘Five Fold Kiss’.

Even with the almost overwhelming similarities, Wicca is founded and propagated in 1954. The Wiccan first degree focuses on the adoration and worship of the “Goddess” or Mother Earth. It is here you are brought to light in the power of elemental energies and you take your obligation to the coven and are ‘reborn’ or ‘twice born’ into your new dedication as a Wiccan. The second degree is dedicated to the masculine God or ‘Horned God’ taking personification for the Celtic Green Man or Greek God Pan which is associated with the sun. It is in this Second Grade that the Wiccan is given their Magical Name within the Order. The Third degree is dedicated to the unification of the God and Goddess through a symbolic death and resurrection. 
 
All three degrees echo a Masonic Structure and seek to connect themselves to a stream of ancient pagan energy that had been lost for almost one thousand years. What Wiccanism did though, was make esotericism mainstream. From this mainstream new age movement would come a new breed of charlatans, gurus, self help books, pseudo-science, and attempts to revive long dead traditions.  
 
~JEF
 
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