Does it really matter?

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners

One of the things that Masonic Researchers seem to obsess over is how Freemasonry came into existence.  As romantic as the thought of us being from the lineage of the Knight's Templar or Mithraism or the Ellucian Mysteries or the Egyptian Mystery Schools or Enoch or Ancient Aliens or if we were just a natural progression from the Medieval Stone Masons guilds; but does it really matter?  

I don't know if any or many of the Masons really gave much thought about the future when they built the beautiful but now expensive-to-maintain Masonic cathedrals like the Masonic Temples in Philadelphia, Detroit, and Salt Lake City to name a few. These brethren thought that Freemasonry would continue to be as popular as it was in their time.  They didn't foresee the decline in membership that has been occurring since we hit the four million member high watermark in 1960. To be honest, had you told any of them that we'd have four million members at one point, they would have felt that they did the right thing by leaving their future brethren ample space to work in the quarries. 

Unfortunately, Freemasonry has been in decline since then, and short of some miracle, it will continue to decline.  I just turned 49 years old, middle-aged by some standards, but yet still a young adult in Freemasonry where the average age of membership is somewhere in the mid-60s. While I don't have the exact number, the estimates put our current membership count somewhere between 1 million and 2 million members in the United States depending on which source you want to believe. If we just say that we have lost half our membership in 60 years, we will most likely see another 1 - 1.5 million member decline in the next 20 years.  
But does it really matter?

I truly believe that it doesn't.  It isn't going to matter how many lodges close or consolidate, how many appendant bodies have to consolidate their Grand Bodies or jurisdictions or perhaps close altogether, or how many members we have.  The only thing that matter is that Freemasonry survives. It matters because of what Freemasonry is in its purest form, which is an egalitarian democratic institution that forbids sectarian influences during its proceedings.  As long as we have one lodge that exists somewhere in the world, then Freemasonry survives.  That's all that matters.  Because as long as one lodge exists, it could then give birth to others, and appendant bodies could be resurrected, well you get the idea.  

So maybe we need to stop worrying about the ifs, whens, and buts, and just try to make sure that Freemasonry in some fashion survives for future generations. Nothing else really matters. 


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. He is also a Fellow of the Illinois Lodge of Research. He was presented with the Torok Award from the Illinois Lodge of Research in 2021. You can reach him by email at    

From the Archives: The 50 Year Member: Part Five - The Office

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Bill Hosler, PM

The football game was about to begin. Brethren with their friends and family wearing their team’s colors were beginning to gather around the 90 inch flat screen in the newly renovated Social room. The room was packed to capacity. The smell of chili wafted though the air as people were filling their plates with tasty delights that everyone brought to the gathering. You could hear the people talking, laughing, and having a good time. It was like a family gathering.
The 50 year member, pouring himself a glass of ice tea was smiling to himself. It had been many years since he had seen this room full of people. The scene reminded him of a time long ago when the Temple was a gathering place for the Brethren of the lodge. These weekend football games and the other activities being held here had brought in a lot of men who were interested in Masonry. Not just the possibility of new members but men who had joined the lodge and rarely returned again. All these activities in this social room brought a new buzz to the temple. Something that had been lacking in this building for a long time.
Pudge wearing a red jersey and his team’s baseball cap, smiling and eating a bowl of chili. He was smiling and enjoying a conversation with the Master of the lodge. As the 50 year member walked to Pudge’s table the Master walked away.  “Were you talking football or lodge?” The 50 year member asked. “Little bit of both” Pudge replied. “I just got asked to take an office.” Pudge said. “Well congratulations Pudge!” The old man exclaimed “What office?” The old man asked, “Junior Steward” Pudge replied. “But I am not sure if I am ready for it.” “Junior Steward isn’t bad. It’s not like you have to chair the meeting.” The 50 year member said. “Unless there is degree work you just sit in your chair.” “True” Pudge said but then next year it’s Senior Steward then Junior Deacon, Pretty soon you are Master! What if I am not ready?" The old man smiled and put his hand on Pudge’s shoulder. “Pudge my friend, you have more ability than many men I have known to sit in the Oriental chair. Look around you at this room. A few months ago this room was unused, covered in dust. There had not been a soul in this room for nearly three decades. You got all these men together, shared your vision, raised the funds and transformed this room into a vital part of our Temple again. Look at all these people having fun and fellowship.  This was your doing.” The old man continued “You have brought something back to this lodge that had been missing here for a long time.” 
“Anyone could have done that.” Pudge said “But there is so much more to being an officer. The memorization, learning all the floor work…I’m just not sure if I would be good at it.” “The old man looked Pudge straight in the eye “I can work with you on memorization, the floor work will come in time. If you continue your Masonic studies all the pieces will come together. As wise as King Solomon was, do you think he was born that way? No! It was his life experiences and his studies which molded him into what he became. Those years you sit in the various officer chairs gives you the experience you will need to sit in the East. Reading Masonic writings will also help you in your journey and common sense will complete your education.” The old man said, “Pudge you have been working on your rough ashlar. You have been chipping away at it, knocking off the rough corners. Your vision and your actions have shown your abilities. We just need to keep chipping away until you have created your perfect ashlar." 
Pudge began to blush “Thanks” he said. “I hope I can fulfill the faith you have in me.” The old man smiled “You already have my Brother.”


WB Bill Hosler was made a Master Mason in 2002 in Three Rivers Lodge #733 in Indiana. He served as Worshipful Master in 2007 and became a member of the internet committee for Indiana's Grand Lodge. Bill is currently a member of Roff Lodge No. 169 in Roff Oklahoma and Lebanon Lodge No. 837 in Frisco,Texas. Bill is also a member of the Valley of Fort Wayne Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite in Indiana. A typical active Freemason, Bill also served as the High Priest of Fort Wayne's Chapter of the York Rite No. 19 and was commander of of the Fort Wayne Commandery No. 4 of the Knight Templar. During all this he also served as the webmaster and magazine editor for the Mizpah Shrine in Fort Wayne Indiana.

The Divisions of Empires - The Scottish Rite Northern Masonic andSouthern Jurisdictions - Revisit

A story of jurisdictions within the Scottish Rite body of Freemasonry.

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson

*Updated May 2015 from the original which was published in The Working Tools Magazine

In light of the recent events of Celebrate the Craft 2016, the annual fundraiser for the Southern Jurisdiction House of the Temple, the upcoming November 12th celebration of Scottish Rite Day, and the absolute awkwardness that was the Scottish Rite NMJ survey, I found myself fielding tons of questions as of late regarding the Scottish Rite, it's jurisdictions, schisms, differences, and similitudes. So below is a slightly revised version of an article I wrote for the Working Tools Magazine quite a while back. Enjoy...

When I joined the AASR (Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite) in 2012, no one told me that there were two jurisdictions within the order (in North America, let alone the different versions which exist globally). All I knew was that when I took the tour of our new cathedral (The Valley of Chicago), it felt like both a country club and a great fraternal organization to be a part of. 

Let's explain for the brothers who might not know about the two jurisdictions or empires as I jokingly referred to them. We begin in the fog of antiquity. There are some documents and writings which suggest that the Scottish Rite was active in the 1730s in England, but I am not here to debate the origins. I will talk about what we know.

Some speculation--We know that the Scottish Rite was a bunch of Scottish Masons who left Scotland to go to France. Some say they (the Scotsmen) were defectors, but this is not official. After a stay in France, these Scottish Masons became tired of their Masonry being diluted with French culture (again, additional speculation), so they left and took with them the system of degrees.

There were many spinoffs of the Scottish Rite system, Memphis-Mizraim, for instance, with 96 or 99 degrees depending on which source you use, but again, I won't be touching that one. When the system reached America, the Scottish Rite system was almost a product. It was being sold by the multitudes like traveling salesmen selling vacuum's or steaks to an unsuspecting sucker err Brother… There was no quality control, no authority on the degrees and, there were versions galore. So, the Mother Council of the World was created in Charleston, South Carolina in, 1801. They added a few degrees to the existing 25 and now had the well known 32 degrees plus 1 honorary degree, the 33rd (some say the 33rd was actually taken from the competing "Cerneau" degrees, a system which later caused the biggest schism the Fraternity had then known.)

They adopted a new motto, a Latin phrase, "Ordo Ab Chao," meaning Order Out of [from] Chaos. Most would agree this phrase was adopted because it refers to the chaotic status of the Rite during the preceding years, in plain language, it was a mess, but no longer. Well, …. kind of.

There were still a few rogue groups of Scottish Rite enthusiasts way up in the North and North East ("Cerneauism"). They were ordered to get their stuff together, and they did. In 1806 the Supreme Council of The Northern Masonic Jurisdiction was formed, holding precedence over fifteen states, the remaining thirty-five plus Washington DC and Puerto Rico being under the Southern Jurisdiction.

Coming back now to the year 2012, there I was sitting in the theater of the VOC (Valley of Chicago), receiving my degrees over an amazing three days. I remember at the time I was working a 1st shift job, I woke up at 4:30 am, worked 9 hours then, got dressed, and went to the reunion at night. I was super tired. Nevertheless, I had a great time. I was introduced to the awesome system of Scottish Rite Degrees. 

During that reunion, the Valley of New Orleans had come up to share in the fellowship and put on a "Red" third degree. That degree was amazing, but it is a story for another time. Over dinner, I sat with the Brothers from New Orleans, and that is when I first learned of a difference between our two jurisdictions. I was thoroughly confused. The Brothers from New Orleans advised me to check out the Master Craftsman Program, a correspondence course set up by the Southern Jurisdiction to help us understand the degrees and gain better insight. 

So needless to say, I did it. I started the MCP (Master Craftsman Program), and that's when I realized that these degrees were different. Not just a little, a lot. The names were different. The degrees were different. The messages were different. Not one thing was the same, not even the "Royal Secret." When I looked to the all-powerful Internet for further information, there were no official statements or even articles which explained the differences between these two organizations. There was nowhere to turn other than forums like Reddit. So I really hope this article helps anyone who was in my situation. Well, it wasn't long before I decided I needed to see this "Southern Jurisdiction" first hand.

Lucky for us, this was easy. Both jurisdictions recognize each other, although if you see a degree in either jurisdiction, it doesn't count if you are a member of the opposite. And now I knew why. The answer? Because they are completely different. You would think that the AASR is the AASR no matter where you go, but it isn't. I talked to my good friend, mentor, and SR brother, Frank, about visiting the Valley of St. Louis. Then I called the Valley of St. Louis and inquired what I needed to attend their Spring Reunion.

The secretary advised me to bring my current dues card and my cap. ( I thought, I guess I have to buy a cap?). I asked if there was a fee for us to pay, and there wasn't. I asked about hotels in the area, and they gave me a bed in the dorm for free. Apparently, this trip was going to cost me a tank of gas, and that's it. I was excited. My next step was to ask my Scottish Rite Mentor, Frank, about these caps. Frank loaned me one to wear on my stay. At this point, all I knew was that the hospitality at the Valley of Chicago wore the typical black cap. It turned out, in the SJ, everyone wears a cap. I later bought one while at the Valley of St. Louis.

So, I got down there, had a great tour, stayed in the dorm, was fed meals, and given drink. It was definitely Brotherly love in action. I didn't know what exactly to expect when I saw the degrees of the SJ. I had a little grasp since I had done the MCP, but again I thought, "How different could it be?". The answer again was COMPLETELY. I'd like to outline a few things and differences between the NMJ and the SJ, between these seemingly amicable empires who strive so hard to spread light among brothers.

The first thing which strikes a difference between the NMJ and SJ is the degrees themselves. In fact, this is probably the biggest difference. The easiest way to describe it, is that where the SJ maintains the look and feel of a traditional degree, complete with an alter, VSL (Volume of Sacred Law) and various implements associated with the degree, the NMJ uses only a scripted play, no altar, no aprons just a skit which should impart the lessons contained. The SJ tends to style each degree as most blue lodge, and York Rite members are accustomed. There is an explanation of the degree, a password (in some degrees), specific aprons, and esoteric fundamentals explained. Most of all, each degree in the SJ is set up where it feels like a lodge being opened and closed with a small drama in-between and a typical explanation on the meaning and secrets of the degree after.

The NMJ usually starts with a preface, and then explodes into what I can only describe as "Broadway." There isn't an explanation into the mysteries per se, but rather a specific "take away" that the degree team hopes you have seen and realized. Further, the NMJ uses "passports," which you have stamped after each degree in order to keep track of what you have seen, and also each page which has the title of the degree also has the "take away" or moral lesson printed therein. No passwords, no grips, no aprons. Just a performance with a message, which is pretty modern.

In short, the NMJ was a modern adaptation of a play, where the SJ was a ritual that you watched, like a play. I hope that makes some sense.

Further differences between the two seem to be that, as I stated before, in the NMJ, the black hats are worn by members are typically worn only by the hospitality (Although this varies by state and sometimes particular valley.) whereas, in the SJ, they are given to each member as a part of their initiation into the Rite (again this varies from valley to valley). On the whole, all members, regardless of how they got their hat, are encouraged to wear their black hats at all SR events in the SJ. The basic membership or 32nd-degree members in the NMJ typically do not wear caps.

Another interesting difference is the emphasis on the 14th degree, and it's ring. In the NMJ, little is mentioned about this ring, whereas again, in the SJ, there is an explanation of it, and sometimes one is given to each candidate. This practice has been suspended in many valleys due to the cost of buying a ring for each candidate. Nevertheless, candidates who have received the 14th degree in the SJ are encouraged to acquire and wear this ring and to wear it always until which time IF they are chosen to receive the honorary 33rd degree. The NMJ really focuses on the Fraternity aspect or even social qualities and really emphasizes the 32nd degree.

There are a great many more differences as well, for instance in some valleys in the SJ, the members perform a public play for the profane (uninitiated), this play is actually the 20th degree of the NMJ. It deals with George Washington and Benedict Arnold. What is a private degree for the NMJ is a public event in the SJ. The 4th degree of the NMJ in many cases is given as a video presentation and is kind of a "general preview" of what to expect in the degrees of the AASR NMJ. According to some sources, the 4th-degree video was originally intended to be a promo for the AASR NMJ for Masons and their families, and possibly to give them an idea what the SR was all about and somewhere along the line, it just became the 4th degree. The 4th degree in the SJ is again, more of a lodge ceremony similar to the blue lodge and York Rite degrees.

The degree structure in both is a bit different as well. In the NMJ and SJ, the 4th through 14th degrees are under what is called "The Lodge of Perfection." However, after this, there are some differences. The NMJ then confers the 15th and 16th degrees under what is called "The Princes of Jerusalem," while the SJ confers the 15th through18th as the "Chapter of Rose Croix." The NMJ confers the degrees in the "Chapter of Rose Croix" in just two degrees, the 17th, and 18th. From there, the NMJ confers the 19th through the 32nd under the "Consistory," while the SJ confers the 19th through the 30th under the "Council of Kadosh," and finally, the 31st and 32nd as the consistory.

After seeing degrees in both jurisdictions, it was apparent to me that both merit applause. Hard-working Brothers, putting on the best degrees they can for the betterment of the AASR. I will continue to receive degrees in both jurisdictions because they are complementary in certain ways.

Still, after all, this had a question, "Why the difference?". Why was the SJ just rocking these revised Albert Pike rituals, and why did the NMJ decide to revise and, in many cases, continually revise degrees? While there seems to be no "official" language, there is speculation on the reasons for the contrast.

One reason often cited was that Albert Pike being a confederate officer, the status of which was "held against him," and so the North refused the degrees he rewrote, siding instead with the Charles T. McClenachan version, which was a re-write of Pike's re-write. Although there is often stated that there is no contention between these jurisdictions today, writings often refer to these jurisdictions as "rivals" in the early days.

Also, it should be noted that the Charles T. McClenachan version of the ritual was from what I have researched, not a re-write of any published work of Pike's, but a re-write or updating of Pike's unofficial ritual, Magnus Opus and that Charles T. McClenachan used parts of the never published "Secret Directory" which was a handwritten explanation of degrees in a five-volume set that the NMJ had acquired.

Another often cited reason for the differences is yet another objective opinion, which harkens to the idea of the "Northerner's need for progressive and liberal changes.". In this notion, it is supposed that the "old degrees" hold no truth for today's Freemason and that the degrees need to be updated continually to be properly understood. This was accomplished by updating the degrees and rewriting them to showcase more familiar and relatable concepts while trying to maintain the original "take-away" or lesson of the degree. Essentially a modernization in an extreme form. What I find interesting is that if this is indeed true—that the degrees need updating to be understood by today's Mason, why then have the blue lodge craft degrees not done this? I would say personally that no degree needs updating, but that is my humble opinion.

To revisit the idea posed earlier, that there is no contention and that today both jurisdictions work in unity together, is an accurate statement as it relates to visitation, recognition, and cordiality, but is what I would describe as a partial facade when it comes to the attitudes of individual members and their beliefs about the "other guys." In my travels, I have found that members believe in the superiority of their system, although they respect and recognize each other. Of course, there are jokes about the respective "camps" on both sides. In fact, while in the Valley of St. Louis, I was told, "We don't have any fancy submarine degrees.", as he chuckled, and then made a jab about the NMJ having video degrees but it was all in jest. Yes, I did say that degrees are on video. This still comes as a surprise to Masons residing within the NMJ and SJ members as well. It's not something many of us are happy about. But this paper is not for critiquing, rather to advise and educate. As for the SJ, I have heard in my own valley, some rather interesting comments made about the "clinging to old ways" and monologues that "droll on and on…", referring again to the SJ rituals. There definitely seems to be some underlying animosity.

In the end, the AASR, whether you're talking about NMJ or SJ, have excellent systems of moral instruction and degrees. Whichever you join, whether you like it or not, is recognized by the other, which means you can visit either one you like. There is, of course, the problem of degrees themselves being recognized, which they are not. So just keep track of the degrees you see and take notes. I think there is an interesting conclusion to be made, which is that perhaps the AASR is not 32 degrees, but rather 64 degrees with honorary 33rd degrees in both, which again, are different from each other.

I hope this aids in your search for light my Brothers. Here is to all 64 errr 66 degrees of the AASR!

Below is a video that just came out. It is made by the NMJ I believe in prep for the Scottish Rite Day on November 12th. It has some good history and is only 3 minutes long. Enjoy. 


References: Scottish Rite Ritual and Monitor, Committed to the Flames, Bridge to Light, Mackey's Masonic Encyclopedia.

Bro. Robert Johnson, PM is the Managing Editor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He is a Freemason out of the First North-East District of Illinois. He is the Secretary of Waukegan Lodge No. 78 and Education officer for the 1st N.E. District of Illinois as well as a past member on the Grand Lodge Education Committee. He is also a member of the York Rite bodies, AMD, The Illinois Lodge of Research, and a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Chicago as well as a charter member of the Society of King Solomon, a charity organization run by the Grand Lodge 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. In addition, he produces video shorts focusing on driving interest in the Fraternity and writes original Masonic papers from time to time. He is also a co-host of The Masonic Roundtable, a Masonic talk show. He is a husband and father of four. He works full time in the executive medical industry and is also a photographer on the side as well as an avid home brewer. He is currently working on a book of Masonic essays.

The Legend of Adam's Grave: Revisit

by Midnight Freemason contributor
Robert H. Johnson

Editors Note: As intense as the worlds is at the moment, I offer you a brief escape into a mental land of adventure. I first wrote this as a new contributor to the Midnight Freemasons back in 2012. I've not done any further research, but the story still fascinates me and many others. There may be some allusion to the Noachite mysteries here as well. I hope you enjoy. I do say, enjoy. 
In 1868, German-American adventurer Heinrich Schliemann arrived at Troys location. Before this, it was thought that Troy was only a legend. Of course it was an amazing discovery to find out that the Iliad spoke of a real city. There are thousands of ancient legends, one of which, I stumbled upon one day while reading Macky's Masonic Encyclopedia.

As I was flipping through the pages, I came across "Adam" the supposed first man or at least the first modern man according to Hebrew and Christian texts. I am not inclined to share my religious beliefs, at least not in the short essay, however when I reveal to you this short passage which set my mind on fire, you will know why I chose to write about it. 

Here is the passage:

"Upon the death of Adam, says traditional history, the pious Gregory declared that the "dead body should be kept above ground, till a fulness of time should come to commit it to the middle of the earth by a priest of the most high God.'' This traditional prophecy was fulfilled, it is said, by the body of Adam having been preserved in a chest until about 1800 B.C., when "Melchizedek buried the body in Salem (formerly the name of Jerusalem), which might very well be the middle of the habitable world."

Interesting right? Especially when you do the math. This means that Adams body was laid to rest a mere 3,812 years ago. I don't need to tell you that we dig up bones older than this all the time. And there would most certainly (hopefully) be bones, since it says the body was "preserved". Further research reveals a kind of time line. At some point Noah went to the land of Eden and retrieved the case containing Adam's remains. 

"When Noah died, he commanded Shem concerning the bones of Adam, for they were with them in the ark, and were removed from the land of Eden to this earth."

Next the legend continues saying the bones were distributed among Shem and Melchizedek. Some accounts say that Shem was given the skull of Adam and the body of Adam to Melchizedek. Shem then took the skull and buried it in Jerusalem, in the place of the skull also known by other names in the Masonic system and to some as Calvary. And the body was placed in a tomb, supposedly the very same tomb where Jesus was later laid to rest. Another account varies slightly, saying that Shem and Melchizedek went to the ark and retrieved the bones.

"And he journeyed by night with the angel before him, and Melchizedek with him, until they came and stood upon the spot where our Lord was crucified. When they had laid the coffin down there, the earth was rent in the form of a cross, and swallowed up the coffin, and was again sealed up and returned to its former condition."

Some crude maps have been drawn showing where this hill is and the land has not seemed to change, at least in description. There is a good chance something could be found if a joint effort was established. Coincidentally this hill is very close to the dome of the rock, which as we are all aware is the site of the western wall of King Solomon's Temple, the place where Mohamed ascended to heaven and perhaps the real spot where the body of Adam was laid to rest. 

Regardless of your religious views, this story propagated in Masonic lore is fascinating. No doubt there has to be more information available somewhere. I have been reading on the subject for months now, but information has been elusive to say the least. Like Troy, perhaps this legend may trigger a research and archeological mission.  Who knows, we may find something of value to the world. 


RWB, Robert Johnson is the Managing Editor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He is a Freemason out of the 1st N.E. District of Illinois. He currently serves as the Secretary of Waukegan Lodge No. 78 where he is a Past Master. He also serves as the District Deputy 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 and is also an avid home brewer. He is currently working on a book of Masonic essays and one on Occult Anatomy to be released soon.

From the Archives: The 50 Year Member: Part Four - Inward Not the Outward

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Bill Hosler, PM

The lodge BBQ was a smashing success. The evening was perfect. A slight breeze was blowing through the warm night air, light music playing in the background. Dozens of kids of all ages were running around the backyard each one stuffed full of hot dogs and hamburgers. Their faces were encrusted in chocolate and marshmallows from the s’mores they had roasted at the bonfire. Their parents hoped all the running and playing would tire them out so they would be ready for bed when they got home.

The grownups were sitting around the bonfire chatting enjoying the conversation in the beautiful night air. Topics ranged from their favorite carry in dish of the night to who would conduct the stair lecture in an upcoming degree.

Pudge was sitting by himself at the picnic table. Even though he seemed to be in a good mood it appeared he had something on his mind.

The 50 year member was dressed in his casual attire. Khaki shorts and a Hawaiian shirt. It was the perfect outfit for such a beautiful summer evening. “Hey Pudge!” The 50 year said “Did you get enough to eat?” Oh yeah, I’m stuffed” Pudge said “Some of these people are awesome cooks.” The old man was smiling “We will have to do this more often. Everyone is having a great time.” Pudge tried to smile “They sure are. It’s nice to see everyone dressed casually for a change. I don’t feel so out of place.” The old man frowned. “I don’t understand Pudge. Everyone dresses casually for a cookout.” Pudge put down his drink and said “I know. I don’t mean here I mean like at lodge. I have over heard some members talking about how me and some of the other younger guys don’t wear suits to lodge.” Pudge continued “I’m a T shirt and jeans kind of guy. I wear nice clothes when I go to lodge but it seems like unless I am wearing a suit some will think I am not serious about Masonry or that I am being disrespectful. I thought they said in Masonry it was the internal, not the external that counted.”

The old man leaned back into his chair. He himself had thought the same thing when the younger guys started coming to lodge. All these younger guys he sees on a daily basis are covered in tattoos and piercings. He had worried about the future of the country because all these kids dress so crazy. But after getting to know many of them, especially Pudge he had seem how serious they were about the craft. They are constantly asking questions and having discussions about Masonry his opinion of the younger generation had changed. “Most of them were just kids trying to be themselves” he thought.

“I understand what you are saying Pudge” The old man replied “But you have to remember our generation were raised to dress up for every occasion. Back in my day we dressed for every event. We even wore a suit to go to the movies!” The 50 year member continued “In my day it was considered disrespectful not to wear a suit to lodge. I imagine until recently it has always been that way.” “I understand that Pudge said “But like it says the internal, not the external.”The old man explained “That is true it is the internal not the external and I guess really there isn’t anything wrong with wearing casual attire while at lodge. Many of the smaller lodges in the country towns do it all the time But I say the
internal is exactly the reason while you should dress up to attend lodge.”

Pudge look surprised at what the old man was saying. “My internal is the reason I should dress up? I don’t get it.” The old man continued “Masonry is about making you a better man. Wearing a suit won’t do that but being well dressed makes you feel more confident and creates an heir about you. That confidence really shows to everyone you encounter. If you are in a suit you feel like you can take on the world and everyone you encounter believes you can. That you are well put together and pay attention to the small details and are well organized. Basically what I am saying is your outward affects your inward.” 

Pudge sat stunned. He had never thought about it that way. “So basically it’s like the old saying Clothes makes the man.” “Exactly” The old man said “If you feel confident and on your game you will perform better. Whether you are performing ritual or giving a speech. Even at your job. Think about it Pudge. When you see someone in a suit or dressed like they just got out bed. Who would you think has it more together?” Pudge stared at the table. “I think the guy in the suit.” The old man touched his hand. “Exactly. Sometimes a man has to dress up. It’s part of being a man. Whether you are attending lodge, going to a funeral or even a wedding. You want to look good and show respect for the event or the people you are with and respect for yourself.”

“I’m not saying you have wear formal attire all the time. A T-shirt and jeans is fine when you are with your friends or going out to a casual gathering but I will warn you. That confident feeling gets addictive and you will find yourself dressing up more often or wearing dressier casual clothes.” The old man said smiling “And the ladies like it to.”

Pudge laughed. “Like ZZ Top said every girls crazy about a sharp dressed man.” The old man looked puzzled “Who is ZZ top?” both men started laughing “I’ll explain later” Pudge said “Let’s get another drink and roast some marshmallows.”


WB Bill Hosler was made a Master Mason in 2002 in Three Rivers Lodge #733 in Indiana. He served as Worshipful Master in 2007 and became a member of the internet committee for Indiana's Grand Lodge. Bill is currently a member of Roff Lodge No. 169 in Roff Oklahoma and Lebanon Lodge No. 837 in Frisco,Texas. Bill is also a member of the Valley of Fort Wayne Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite in Indiana. A typical active Freemason, Bill also served as the High Priest of Fort Wayne's Chapter of the York Rite No. 19 and was commander of of the Fort Wayne Commandery No. 4 of the Knight Templar. During all this he also served as the webmaster and magazine editor for the Mizpah Shrine in Fort Wayne Indiana.

What’s in Your Library? - From the Archives

By Midnight Freemason Contributor
W.B. Gregory J. Knott

Many new Masons are eager to learn all they can about the craft when they are first raised.  You hear many unfamiliar terms during the ritual and lectures that require further study to understand their meaning within the entirety of the ritual. One of the duties of a Freemason, is to educate yourself further on the craft by studying the history, meaning, and philosophy of this ancient and honorable fraternity.  Engaging in this course of study can be done in several ways and achieved through a large variety of available resources.   

I wanted to establish my own home library of Masonic resources.  I’ve always loved books, so this was an easy excuse for me to expand my personal book holdings.  But I really didn’t have any idea where to start.  I visited my local Barnes & Nobel bookstore and perused their offerings and bought a few titles and used Google Books to discover many older books that were available digitally.  I later found Masonic book publishers such as Macoy and Michael Poll’s excellent Cornerstone Book Publishers.
So the question comes down to, what are the basics to place in your home library?  I asked several people including some of my fellow Midnight Freemasons and here are some starting suggestions:
What’s in your Masonic Library?


WB Gregory J. Knott is the 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. Greg is very involved in Boy Scouts—an Eagle Scout himself, he is a member of the National Association of Masonic Scouters.

Education is the foundation of Speculative Freemasonry

 by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners

I was searching for Masonic content on Youtube the other night, and I ran across this podcast,, Ben Franklin's world, whose guest was Mark Tabbert. (Mark is the Director of Archives and Exhibits at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial.).  I can't recommend the episode enough.  Several things that Mark addressed on the podcast stood out to me and I wish to highlight them below.  I will note that the below are based on notes I took during the podcast as well as additional research, so my interpretation of the information that was given is based upon this and is in no way supposed to speak for Brother Tabbert unless otherwise noted.  

1. Freemasonry had no impact on the revolutionary war, and the Masons such as Franklin, Washington, and Revere had all joined Freemasonry for different reasons.  There were at the time of Franklin, Washington, and Revere's raising a small number of lodges existed in the colonies (  So, the actual number of Freemasons during the war would have been quite small.  As Mark points out in the above article, it's ridiculous to think that it did, and for every Mason that was a revolutionary figure, there was a figure that was not. 

Franklin actually had written an article for his newspaper ridiculing Freemasonry prior to being initiated in 1731.  Franklin had joined because at the time, thirty-nine years prior to the Boston Massacre, colonial life was focused on the British Crown, and receiving patronage/honors or support from the crown was the goal of many upper-class men.  Freemasonry was a way to achieve this much like joining the Navy, or Army or getting another government commission could be a way to achieve this goal.  Of course, Franklin went on to get his commission, serving as Grand Master, Provincial Grand Master, and Deputy Grand Master during his Sixty year Masonic Career. 

Washington was initiated into his rural lodge in Fredricksburg in 1752 because he was planning on becoming a tobacco farmer and the other farmers in his area were members of the Lodge.  Tabbert didn't mention this, but the Fredricksburg Lodge that Washington joined did not have a charter at the time of his initiating, passing, and raising, so he would have been considered an irregular or clandestine Mason by today's standards. His lodge would ask for and receive a charter from the Grand Lodge of Scotland five years after Washington was raised ( Washington viewed joining as a rite of passage, as well as a way to connect to the other farmers, but later during and after the revolutionary war, viewed it as an incubator for republican virtues (As a clarification, Republican is used in the classical sense and refers to the virtues built around concepts such as liberty and inalienable individual rights; recognizing the sovereignty of the people as the source of all authority in law; rejecting monarchy, aristocracy, and hereditary political power; virtue and faithfulness in the performance of civic duties; and vilification of corruption)as well as a way to improve men by giving them a liberal education. He also viewed Freemasonry as a way to improve individual communities.  

Revere was initiated in 1760 at St. Andrews Lodge in Boston. Revere viewed Freemasonry as a way to grow his trade and encourage commerce.  Revere was a silversmith by trade and later become the Grandmaster of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts from 1795 - 1797.  He would have been representative of many of the middle-class and upper-middle-class men that would have joined Freemasonry during the mid to late 1700s. Interestingly enough,  Revere joined a lodge that was chartered through the Grand Lodge of Scotland. Considering that you had at this time four grand lodges (Ireland, Scotland, the English Moderns and Ancients) granting charters, the English Grand Lodges would have thought the other ones irregular, and vice versa.  The Moderns and Ancients considered each other irregular at this time. It could be argued that Revere also was a member of an irregular lodge depending on your point of view.

2. The revolutionary war did have an impact on Freemasonry.  Historically, you can trace an increase in membership after armed conflict as the survivors turn to Fraternal Organizations to replace the camaraderie that they experienced in those conflicts.  However, Freemasonry was also in line with the enlightenment ideals of the time which were the same ideals that were inspiring the non-Freemason revolutionary figures like Jefferson.  This being said, the Revolutionary War allowed for westward expansion and you see the growth and expansion of Freemasonry as being one of the things occurring with this expansion.  By 1790, there were 200 lodges and by 1800 this number doubled to 400 lodges.  

As earth-shaking as the above points might be to some, there are some other things that Bro. Tabbert said that I really wanted to focus on. 

1. The writing rituals and initiation ceremonies is a literary genre that started around 1720 with the first printed exhibitions of Masonic Ritual.  Much like opera, poems, and other entertainment genres were written about myths and legends, Masonic ritual was a form of entertainment and was enjoyed as a literary exercise.   

2. Masonic Lodges were instrumental in teaching men to read, providing them a classical education, and teaching them about the liberal ideas of self-determination, the classical republican virtues, peaceful assembly of people, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion.

First of all, the men who joined Freemasonry during this time would have been men who believed in self-determination, the classical republican virtues, peaceful assembly of people, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion.  Many of those that would have joined during the transition of the Masonic Guilds into what would become the Grand Lodge system we know today were educated "gentlemen" like Elias Ashmole, who we know joined a lodge in 1646. However, the purpose of the lodge would also have been to educate those that were uneducated, and as more of the Middle Class joined, the lodges would have served to teach men how to read, provide them with a liberal education, and instill many of the liberal ideas listed above into them. Of course, the guilds would have been established to be not only a ruling body for the Stone Masons local to an area but also a trade school to teach the apprentices the knowledge of Stone Masonry, in order to advance them to the point where they could be Master Masons, and our degree system is a direct descendant of this. 

One could also argue that one of the many reasons behind Prince Hall forming African Lodge No. 1  was to promote literacy amongst African American men, and given his efforts to promote and secure public education for African American children, I don't think this is an invalid argument.  In fact, after his numerous attempts to secure public education failed, he started a program from his own home with a focus on the liberal arts and a classical education.  I think it then stands to reason that both Prince Hall and English/Scottish/Irish Freemasonry had the same goal of educating their brethren as one of their main goals at their foundations.

At this same time, you have Masonic Rituals being printed in the press and elsewhere starting around 1720, and you slowly begin to see "hundreds upon hundreds" of initiation ceremonies being written as a literary exercise and as a form of enjoyment. So there is the birth of a literary genre associated with the writing and creation of new initiatory ceremonies and rituals, which gave birth to the Scottish Rite and York Rite rituals of today, as well as many others that were used as a folkway for both men and women alike.  You could then argue that sub-genres were created and that what I'm currently writing in this blog is a sub-genre of this literary genre.  However, for many people, the bible was the only book that they might own, so to be able to write and act out the stories from the bible would have been a popular form of entertainment for them at the time.

Historically you can research and many instances where Freemasonry and Education were intertwined. Many Grand Lodges in the United States were instrumental in helping found Public Education within their state jurisdictions.  In fact, one of the enlightenment ideals that many of the Freemasons of that time would have supported, would have been a free public universal education for children as it was necessary for them to grow into conscientious productive citizens. I think you see this belief continue into the mid to late 20th century when there was a sea change and the majority Masonic thought became that Public Schools were political institutions.  This belief was popularized by Henry Coil in the 1960's in his Encyclopedia of Freemasonry.      

Is it then any wonder that we have seen a diminishing of Education pursuits in our lodges?  How tragic is it that our Organization has gone from once being the only place a man might receive lessons on how to read or receive a classical education to a place where education is eschewed in favor of discussions over building repairs, the type of toilet paper the lodge is buying, and other banal items?  The seven liberal arts and sciences which are grammar, logic, rhetoric (the verbal arts of the trivium), arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy (the mathematical arts of the quadrivium); and which we as Fellowcraft are charged to study, used to be an important part of one's lodge experience.  What once was the foundation of Speculative Freemasonry has now been discarded, much like the Keystone in the Mark Master Degree, into the rubbish. 

While we no longer need to teach our members to read, or at least I hope this is the case, there are still lessons that can be discovered through the pursuit of the verbal arts of the trivium and the mathematical arts of the quadrivium.  Discussions of a masonic nature using the above as a focus will not only strengthen each of us, but also hopefully open up new horizons for ourselves and our brethren. Perhaps we should also attempt to rediscover  
the classical republican virtues listed above, and discuss concepts such as civil society and civic virtue, both of which are lacking in today's society.  

Many will scoff at such a notion, or attempt to dismiss it as political in nature, all while we have already seen the influence of religion and politics creep into our lodges.  Just a week ago, during our tiled Grand Lodge sessions, men stated their religious beliefs and used them in their arguments for being for or against an amendment that dared to state: "Masonry knows no distinction of race or color race, color, or sexual orientation. It is the mental, moral, and physical qualifications of the man that are to be considered."  Yet, they were allowed to state them.  In my humble opinion, these men should have been gaveled down.  Instead, our Grand Lodge without realizing it set a precedent for men to violate the declaration of principles of their own constitution which states: "This Grand Lodge affirms its continued adherence to that ancient and approved rule of Freemasonry which forbids the discussion in Masonic meetings of creeds, politics, or other topics likely to excite personal animosities."  within their own lodges. 

How we got here is unimportant.  What is important is that we must work to bring back this educational experience and hold ourselves accountable to our principles.  We must fight back the influence of the profane world in our sacred spaces. We must return to basing the meeting experience around a classical liberal education to not only expand their knowledge of the verbal arts of the trivium and the mathematical arts of the quadrivium, as well as the concepts of civil society and civil virtue, so that they might think for themselves instead of parroting everything they read on social media or hear in the media.  In doing so, perhaps they can go into their communities and improve them.  Perhaps by working with their public schools to encourage reading, they might be able to have the generations behind them capable of individual thought.  Perhaps in time, their children might be able to 
grow up in a world that is no longer polarized by those things which divide us now. Many Grand Lodge charities have programs to promote reading in public schools now, and it should be every lodges goal to participate in these. 

If we truly go back to our roots of actually improving the individual mason via education instead of saying that Freemasonry does this when it in reality does not, perhaps we can at the very least improve retention, or separate the wheat from the chaff. The men that want to learn and improve themselves will stay, while those who would rather not can go. I'd rather have a smaller, better educated Fraternity than have the one that currently exists.  Quite frankly, the one that currently exists would rather rest on it's laurels, continue to act as if we are living in the 1950's and bury it's head in the sand to the reality that the grand leveler is going to take over 75% of it's population in the next 20 years.  When the average age of our Master Masons is somewhere in the mid-60's, the writing is on the wall. My hope is that I will live to see the transformation of Freemasonry into what it once was, because it's coming.  The brethren who are my age and younger will see to that. 


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. He is also a Fellow of the Illinois Lodge of Research. He was presented with the Torok Award from the Illinois Lodge of Research in 2021. You can reach him by email at     

From the Archives:The 50 Year Member: Part Three - Spreading Cement

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Bill Hosler, PM

The Social room of the Masonic Temple, in its day, was once one of the most popular rooms in the building. It was a beautiful room decorated with dark wood paneling and deep pile, plush carpet. The walls were decorated with framed Masonic lithographs and artifacts of past members aprons and jewels of men who had left their mark on local Masonry. All watched over by large black and white photos of Past Grand Masters in gold frames, who once were members in the building.   

The room was always packed with men acting like boys in their “No girls allowed” clubhouse. Smoking cigars while they played the beautiful hand carved ornate pool tables. There was the clink of the ivory balls rolling along the green felt tables; bouncing off the buffered walls. The men heard calling their shots. In the middle of the room was a seating area with leather winged back chairs surrounded by a mahogany coffee table. Many men found it a quiet area to read a book or newspaper, which was sold by a man in the corner that also sold such things as tobacco products and candy. Many business deals were cemented while the members enjoyed a nice evening in the comfortable leather chairs.  
On the other side of the room men were laughing as they were playing cards at several large wooden tables. Poker was the usual game. Since the Grand Lodge did not allow gambling there were no real bets taking place, Wagers were made with chips with no real value. It was all in good fun. Occasionally a member of the Grand lodge could be seen playing. The game was an open secret since it was all in good fun; no one really complained.
The building was opened around 9am every day except Sunday and stayed open until late at night. Giant urns were filled with coffee and were refilled several times a day as men would stroll in to meet clients or have lunch and even to just have some fellowship before lodge started.
As the years went by, the members retired to a warmer climate or passed away. Those that stayed around didn’t get out much due to their advanced age. Without an influx of new members the room was rarely used and the cost of keeping it open became too much because of inflation. The loss of membership as well as those who were still members that had been Masons for over 50 years no longer had to pay dues. The Temple board made the decision that the building would only be open on meeting nights an hour before dinner was served and on special occasions.
The Social room became a time capsule to a bye gone era. With the years came the decay. The smell of cigar smoke faded away. Paint on the ceiling cracked and peeled. The once beautiful leather chairs now had tears that someone tried to repair with duct tape. The once proud room had become nothing more than a storage area of forgotten memories; A monument to what used to be.
The 50 year member opened the door to the room and turned on the light. The musty smell and the dust everywhere gave the room an eerie feeling. The silence was deafening as the only sound heard was of the fluorescent light bulbs coming to light.   The old man wanted to show his young friend Pudge a certain photo which hangs in the room.  Pudge had asked the 50 year member questions about the history of the lodge and the old man was overjoyed someone new was taking interest in what he and the other members had done so many years before.
“This is a great room!” Pudge exclaimed with his eyes in wonder. “Why don’t we ever use this space?” “We used it all the time when I was a young man.” The 50 year member said “Guys would be playing cards or pool. Sometimes we would get together smoke cigars and just talk. A lot of guys learned their memory work in this room, including myself.” The old man had a faraway look in his eyes remembering the good times he had had in this room. “We should start using it again.” Pudge said. “That would be a great thing”, said the old man. “But most of the guys just come for a meeting and run for the door right after we close. There just isn’t the fellowship like there used to be.” “Well maybe not with the older guys but the guys my age meet up for dinner when we leave here.  We sit around and discuss the meeting over dinner and we talk about various Masonic topics. If we do it at a restaurant, we could do it better here.” Pudge said. You could almost see the wheels in his head turning with the possibilities. “The room needs so much work. I doubt if we could come up with the funds to restore it.” The 50 year member sighed, “It’s a great idea but I don’t think we could pull it off.”
“The thing the room needs most is a good cleaning and a good coat of paint to start with.  It wouldn’t cost that much and we could do most of the work ourselves. It would be awesome to get the chairs recovered and maybe some new carpet and then…” The 50 year member interrupted Pudge. “That all sounds good but there is no way the lodge could come up with that kind of money. Sometimes we can barely pay the building’s heat bill.” The smile started to disappear from Pudge’s face “But we have all those fundraisers like the golf tournament and the raffles. And we raise a lot of money with those.” The older man replied, “But the proceeds from those go to the lodge’s scholarship fund and for various other community projects.” Pudge seemed confused. “If the lodge is having issues with money why are we raising funds for all those other groups?” The 50 year member seemed surprised by the question, “We do those things to get our lodges name out in the public. Many members think that the public has forgotten about Masonry and giving out scholarships lets people know we are here and we might get new members out of it.” “That seems backwards to me”, Pudge replied. “If we don’t take care for ourselves first how can we help others? I always heard charity begins at home. You recently explained to me about Masonic charity and how that is one of the true tenets of Freemasonry. If we take care of ourselves first and have a beautiful building won’t that help bring new members?” The old man paused and said “Maybe you are right Pudge. If we offer new members more than just an occasional meeting men might come here more often. I would love to see this room filled with men like in the old days. Do young guys still play pool or cards?” Pudge laughed, “Some do. I have a lot of friends who love Texas Hold ‘em. But I think there is other ways we can use this space too.” “Really like what?” the 50 year member asked.
“Lots of things. I heard about a lodge in Indiana that has chili cook offs. They have an evening of fun tasting each other’s chili and judging whose chili is the best; the winner gets a trophy.” Pudge pointed to an empty corner of the room “That would be the perfect spot for a flat screen TV. We could have football and basketballwatching parties. Everyone could bring a covered dish and we could all get together for the game. Members could invite their friends and if they have a good time they might even ask for a petition. We could have our families come. The wives could all get to know each other and then might not mind their husbands coming to lodge. The wives may even become friends themselves. I could get an Xbox and have gaming competitions, like Madden football. Or in March a basketball competition. These are all things guys do now at each other’s houses. How cool would it be to have a place all of us can escape to?”
“It would also be a great area to have Masonic study classes. We could have hors d'oeuvres and gather around the chairs and discuss books like a book club or listen to lectures. We are spending money going to restaurants now when we could spend the money and do the same thing within the temple?”
”I would also think if we were to get internet access guys could come in and study or just surf the net. Add a cappuccino machine and we could have our own little coffee house.  I would much rather come in here for my coffee and internet access than go to some chain coffee house. The more I think about it the possibilities of this room are endless! It just seems to me we spend all this money within the community to get new members when we could spend the money on this room and make men want to be a member here.”
The 50 year member was awestruck by Pudge’s enthusiasm in this room. He would love to see this room utilized again like it was so many years ago.
“Pudge you are on to something. You are right that we need to take care of ourselves first. It makes sense that if we offer young guys more than just a stuffy meeting once a month they might start coming around more and be even better staying members. I think things like this room and the fellowship with the other members is what kept me coming back all those years. The friendships I made in this room or while eating dinner was the real cement of brotherly love.  Let’s see what we can do to breathe life into this old room!” The old man felt like he did when he was a young man again. The thought of seeing the place, where so many of his favorite memories were made, gave him that old feeling that Masonry can bring to a man. The old man smiled and put his arm around Pudge’s shoulder, “Let me show you that picture I was telling you about. Then I am going to tell you some stories about the men I knew who used to come to this room.”

Bill Hosler was raised in 2002 in Three Rivers lodge #733 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He served as master of the lodge in 2007 and was a member of the Internet committee for the Grand Lodge of Indiana F&AM. Bill is currently a member of Roff lodge #169 in Roff, Oklahoma and Lebanon lodge #837 in Frisco, Texas he is also a 32° Scottish Rite Mason within the Fort Wayne, Indiana Valley AASR NMJ. Bill has also served as High priest of Fort Wayne Chapter #19 Royal Arch masons and Commander of Fort Wayne Commandery #4 Knights Templar and the Webmaster and magazine editor for Mizpah Shrine in Fort Wayne, Indiana.