When a light goes out

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners

WB Keith Sigwerth 

Freemasonry in my little corner of the woods was dealt a tremendous blow when a brother that many of you didn't know by the name of, Keith A. Sigwerth passed away on Dec. 18, 2023, after being diagnosed earlier this year with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Before I begin to tell you about Keith in my own words, I want to share his Masonic resume:  

Keith was a Master Mason dedicated to raising fellow brothers to become Master Masons. He became Master of his Lodge, Mahomet Masonic Lodge #220 in 2016 and served as Master of his lodge for two consecutive years. He was part of Traveling Degree, a Lifetime Member of Mahomet Masonic Lodge #220, and an honorary member of several surrounding lodges including Western Star Lodge #240, Ogden Masonic Lodge #754, Tolono Masonic Lodge #391, Monticello Masonic Fraternal Lodge #58, Farmer City Masonic Lodge #710, Paxton Masonic Lodge Room #416, Gibson City Lodge #733, Rantoul Lodge #470, Sidney Lodge #347, Urbana Lodge #157 and Homer Lodge #199.

He quickly became a 32nd-degree Mason after joining the Valley of Danville Scottish Rite and served on the Line of Perfection for several years.

He was a member of the Illini Shrine Club and became President for two consecutive years. He also became a part of the Hi-Lo Wheelers where you would see Keith in parades all around east-central Illinois in his little yellow car.

Keith and his Shrine Car

Transporting dozens of children and their families to and from the St. Louis, MO and Chicago, IL Shriners Hospitals for Children; he was a loyal transporter for the Shriners for several years.

Keith joined the Ansar Shrine Club in Springfield where he entered the Divan Line, serving four years. He was an Ambassador for Ansar Shrine, Tri-County Shrine, Shelby County Shrine Club, and Eastern Illinois Shrine Club in Danville, visiting many Shrine clubs throughout the state.

Keith and His Wife Becky

Let me just tell you in my own words about Keith.  Keith was one of the friendliest and most down-to-earth brothers you could ever meet.  Earlier this year, before his diagnosis, I had sent an email to the brethren of Homer Lodge #199 telling them that we had been having trouble making quorum.  Keith lived probably 40 to 45 minutes from Homer, but he showed up because I asked for help.  He was an honorary member at Homer #199 and didn't have to drive all that way to help us out, but he did.  He did because that's who Keith was.  That was his character.  He would go out of his way to help out.  Any brother that had the pleasure of knowing Keith would probably say the same thing. He was just one of those quiet, unassuming brothers who really made an impact here in East Central Illinois.  

There were over 50 brothers who drove from all over the state to attend Keith's Masonic Service, including the current Potentate of the ANSAR Shrine, Jason Cutright.  His Masonic Rites were given by WB Jeff Baine, who was a friend of Keith's and asked by his wife to give those rites.  I don't know how Jeff did it without a complete emotional breakdown, because lord knows I was fighting back tears during them.  

If there is any other point to this article other than wanting to make sure Keith's legacy lives on Masonically, it's to do something I did every time Keith helped me out personally, but something that I think I should have done the last time I saw him, which was this past September 30 at a Pancake Breakfast fundraiser at Mahomet Lodge #220.  I should have thanked him again and told him how much respect I had for him, and how he inspired me to be better.  So, Keith, I thank you for being a bright light in Freemasonry and for being a positive influence on those around you.  Thank You for leading by example.  Thank You for being kind.  Thank You for being you.  You'll be missed brother.  Not just by myself, but by those who were lucky enough to know you.       

Keith is survived by his loving wife, Becky Sigwerth (Smith) of Mahomet; daughter Michelle Bonham and Son-In-Law who he loved like his own, Eric Bonham of Mahomet; grandchildren Robert, Mackenzie, Bailey, and Josie Mae Bonham of Mahomet, and sister-in-law Glenda Sigwerth of Mt. Vernon. He loved his sidekick and best buddy, Brody, his black lab puppy.


Darin Lahners is our Managing Editor. He is a host and producer of the "Meet, Act and Part" podcast as well as a co-host of an all-things-paranormal podcast, "Beyond the 4th Veil." He is currently serving the Grand Lodge of Illinois Ancient Free and Accepted Masons as a member of the Committee on Masonic Education 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.  

What Even Are Symbols? Part 1 of a series

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Patrick Dey

Throughout our Masonic journeys, we are constantly presented with symbols and symbolism. Whenever we ask what something means, the short answer is: that it’s symbolic. But what even is a symbol? We have some idea of what symbols are. We have many experiences with the symbolic, so we can muster a working conception of what a symbol is from our personal experience, but having a philosophical framework might be best to really grasp how symbols work and how they are utilized.

This is important: symbols have a utility. I think when we designate symbols as something “spiritual” or “esoteric,” it shuts down any practical use of the symbols. When, in fact, a symbol may be spiritual or profane, or both. They have a utility, they are useful, regardless if it is spiritual or profane. But to make use of symbols, we should have a firmer grasp of what even are symbols.

Firstly, symbols are part of a “sign” system. Within linguistic theory, we have signs and meanings of signs. This is what has long been called a “signified and signifier” relation (i.e. Ferdinand Saussure), and they are arbitrary in their relationship. For instance, we have the word “tree.” It is just a sound we make or just some lines on a piece of paper. The word “tree” is the signifier, the sign. It signifies the idea of what we call a tree, the signified. Plato would delineate these as thing and thingness — a particular example of a tree and the tree-ness of trees. I don’t always agree with Plato, so let’s go back to Saussure. We could, of course, arbitrarily change the signifier as we prefer, and so long as everyone is in agreement that we are changing the signifier, then we can now use a different word sign for the same idea. You see this in legal contracts, where it will state at the beginning that Mr. Joe Brown (hereafter referred to as the Defendant). Thenceforth, any time the documents say “Defendant,” we know that means Joe Brown. Or a better example: have you ever had to deal with someone so despicable that everyone referred to them as “he who must not be named”? We know who everyone is talking about, but we have adopted a new signifier for them, but it still maintains the same signification.

Symbols are a type of sign, but signs do not have to be symbols. Similarly, in geometry, a square is a type of rectangle, but a rectangle does not have to be a square. A square is a special kind of rectangle. Similarly, a symbol is a very special type of sign. Signs usually have a very limited signifier-signified relationship. For instance, if I show you a red octagon, you would interpret that to mean “stop.” Usually, it means to stop the car at this line, but we can put a red octagon in a pop-up warning on a computer, warning you that you are about to do something dangerous on the computer and to not proceed, but the red octagon has pretty much the same meaning, though it is being used in different contexts.

Symbols are what Carl Jung would call “multivalent.” That is, symbols mean a lot of different things, and they can be variously related or not. The red octagon sign really only has one meaning (in American sign systems): to stop. We could use it for something else, such as “this is a mountain,” and we could mutually agree with each other that it now means that, but that would get confusing. Symbols have a flexibility and vagueness that goes beyond a simple sign-signified relationship.

I have never found Jung’s definitions of symbols to be all that helpful. He gets very esoteric and mystical without ever really providing a clear notion of what symbols are. Jung sometimes appears to believe that symbols are so esoteric that it would be a detriment to the idea of symbols to even try to define them. Kind of a cop-out. Jean Baudrillard, on the other hand, gives a very good idea of what symbols are, namely they are simulacra for something that cannot be easily summarized, usually something so large and complex that the symbol stands in for a very broad and complicated system of ideas. In other words, the symbol represents something that cannot be completely comprehended or expressed.

Baudrillard puts symbols within his degrees of simulacra, as outlined in Simulacra and Simulation (1981). There are four orders of simulacra, according to Baudrillard, and each order distorts reality more and more to the point that we find ourselves living in the “desert of the real,” a world full of signs, but no meaning. The first order is a simple copy. Such as a head bust of a famous person. We know that the bust is not that person, but is a faithful representation of their image.

Second-order simulacra are symbols. According to Baudrillard, symbols are not any sort of representation of the likeness of another image, but rather a sign, a signifier for something that cannot be captured in any meaningful way. We will follow the example used by Baudrillard that he takes from Jorge Luis Borges, a one-paragraph short story called “On Rigor in Science” (1946). In this story, there is an empire that has advanced the science of cartography so precisely that the map the cartographers create is the exact same scale as the empire itself — a one-to-one scale, as the map covers the entire empire. For Baudrillard, this means that the physical territory itself has been replaced by the map, the thing meant to represent the empire, not supersede it. Out in the deserts on the fringes of the empire pieces of this ancient map can still be found, hence Baudrillard’s term “the desert of the real.”

Symbols do not function in this way. Rather than express the entirety of the empire at a one-to-one scale, a simple sign will be used. Rather than create a globe to map the world that is the exact same size as Earth to represent the Earth and all things upon it, we could make a simple image of, say, a circle with a cross through it, the classic symbol for Earth. Or we could draw a small, very crude image of a blue and green sphere that vaguely depicts the lands and seas of this planet. This is not just a mere abstraction, but a symbol representing something much greater than can ever be pragmatically depicted without the map replacing the territory, and the globe replacing the planet.

There is more happening on this planet, and more to what makes this “our world” than can ever be depicted: people, plants, production, destruction, birth, death, wars, truces, weather, the intricacies of the clouds, the particulars of a husband and wife arguing, the nuances of children playing… such cannot be captured, and instead of mapping them entirely, we may create a simple image that represents everything that is “the world.” This is how we generate a symbol.

The Lodge itself is like this. The Lodge is described in such a way that it represents the world: east, west, north, south, up, down, center, out, with the starry decked heavens above. A simple box that is longer than it is wide is symbolic of something much greater than can ever truly be mapped. And even the Lodge itself is symbolized in various ways: the circumpunct bounded by two lines, or a simple oblong square, et cetera. Because as much as the Lodge is a symbol of the world in all its manifold complexities, so too is the Lodge a multifaceted thing representing all the various aspects of Freemasonry.

The circumpunct symbol is a very interesting case, as it represents numerous things all at once. It represents the individual brother at the Altar, circumscribed by the boundaries of his passions, but also a representation of the circumambulation he made during his initiation. The two lines further represent the Saints John, which represent the solstices (the Tropics of Capricorn and Cancer), which adds to the astrological solar image of the circumpunct itself. This symbol is a loaded image of a variety of things, from the image of initiation to the brethren of the Lodge assembled to the cosmos itself. But this symbol also has a function. Remember I said at the beginning that symbols have a utilitarian function, they are not useless nor do they reside strictly in the realm of the sacred.

For Masonic symbols, they appear to be sacred to the uninitiated, they seem like mystical contrivances of uncertain meaning or power. Yet, to the initiated, we understand these meanings, representations, and significations. The circumpunct reminds us to keep within moderation, to not let our passions and desires get the better of us. The Saints John and the solstitial tropics remind us that even the sun itself has boundaries that it will not cross: it will not go any higher nor farther north in the summer, and that it will not go lower nor farther south in the winter. So too should we set boundaries for ourselves so that we may not transgress. But also we have our brethren there to help us, those to the north of us and those to the south of us when we took our oaths. And so forth.

It feels like we could get into Baudrillard’s conception of the “hyperreal” with the circumpunct being a symbol for the Lodge and the Lodge being a symbol for the world, that a symbol is symbolic of another symbol, and it is kind of getting distorted to the point that we lose the concept of the original, the world. But I digress.

My point here is that symbols are not abstractions or a copy of something. They are a signifier of something much more complex than can be completely represented. However, do not think that Baudrillard feels the symbolic is a good thing. He regards it as “it masks and denatures a profound reality,” whereas the first order of simulacra is “the reflection of a profound reality.” The symbolic is “an evil appearance — it is of the order of maleficence.” For Baudrillard, the symbolic conceals reality, rather than being an abstract expression of it. It denies that reality can ever be fully expressed, and thus must present a signifier to stand in for this lack.

In a way, he has a point. We as Masons are “symbolic” craftsmen. We are not real stonemasons, but rather symbolic of the old stonemason guild system and those who worked within that economic system to build great cathedrals and palaces. We instead build symbolic temples. It is as if the tangible, the real temples that were built are impossible to express their grandeur and sublime nature in any abstract way, and instead must rely on symbolry to express this. But for Baudrillard, it is actually a concealment. Remember: “I hele. I conceal.”

In the second part, we will look at Baudrillard’s third order of simulacra to look at how in Masonry, especially within our so-called “higher” degree systems, this symbolic order breaks down and we begin to see that Masonry becomes something that “masks the absence of a profound reality,” in which we are claiming to be something that never actually existed.


Patrick M. Dey is a Past Master of Nevada Lodge No. 4 in the ghost town of Nevadaville, Colorado, and currently serves as their Secretary, and is also a Past Master of Research Lodge of Colorado. He is a Past High Priest of Keystone Chapter No. 8, Past Illustrious Master of Hiram Council No. 7, Past Commander of Flatirons Commandery No. 7. He currently serves as the Exponent (Suffragan) of Colorado College, SRICF of which he is VIII Grade (Magister). He is the Editor of the Rocky Mountain Mason magazine, serves on the Board of Directors of the Grand Lodge of Colorado’s Library and Museum Association, and is the Deputy Grand Bartender of the Grand Lodge of Colorado (an ad hoc, joke position he is very proud to hold). He holds a Masters of Architecture degree from the University of Colorado, Denver, and works in the field of architecture in Denver, where he resides with wife and son.

From the Archives: Was Charles Dickens a Freemason?

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Gregory J. Knott

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
With the Christmas season upon us, many probably have read The Christmas Carol, written by Charles Dickens in 1843. The story is told of one Ebenezer Scrooge the recalcitrant old man who wanted nothing to do with the Christmas season and then his amazing transformation while being visited by Jacob Marley and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Yet to Come. 

I had attended a short presentation on Charles Dickens at the University of Illinois Library in regards to some of his works and it got me wondering if Dickens was perhaps a Freemason. I came back and did a quick internet search and found some well documented resources. The short answer to my question was no, Dickens was not a Freemason. However, he did have many Masonic connections both in his family and within his writings.

University of Illinois Copy of The Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.
This volume is held in the Rare Book Room at the UI Library
In a December 2012 article in the Freemason, published on the United Grand Lodge of New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory website, the masonic connection to Dickens was discussed in detail. While not a Freemason, Dickens had brothers and some of his sons who were members of the fraternity. There are lodges today that have in their names links to the history of Dickens:

“Names and history of a number of lodges have Dickensian links. The first two were both established in the early 1890s. Cheerybles Lodge No 2466 was named after the two brothers in Nicholas Nickleby and they are depicted on the lodge jewel.

A snuff box for Charles Dickens Lodge No. 2757.
  Photo courtesy of phoenixmasonry.org
The lodge history explains that two brothers 'exemplified ... the characteristics of good humour, simplicity, generosity and selflessness' in contrast with other less worthy characters in the book. 'They exhibited so many of the virtues which animate Freemasons' to such an extent that it was appropriate to name a lodge after them. The founders of the lodge were drawn from members of Cheerybles Musical Society, which combined a love of music and Dickens.”

Dickens had references to Freemasonry in some of his writings as well. He referenced Freemasonry in his book The Great Expectations:

The effort of resolution necessary to the achievement of this purpose, I found to be quite awful. It was as if I had to make up my mind to leap from the top of a high house, or plunge into a great depth of water. And it was made the more difficult by the unconscious Joe. In our already-mentioned freemasonry as fellow-sufferers, and in his good-natured companionship with me, it was our evening habit to compare the way we bit through our slices, by silently holding them up to each other's admiration now and then - which stimulated us to new exertions.

Albert D. Pionke who wrote Plots of Opportunity: representing conspiracy in Victorian England noted:

“It is not difficult to find either incidental allusions or more in-depth references to the figure of Freemasonry in a wide range of Victorian writing. In fact such prominent nineteenth-century novelists such as George Eliot, Charles Dickens and William Makepeace Thackeray all make opportunistic use of the Masons’ publicity. These three authors deploy the figure of Freemasonry with healthy dose of irony, even as they allow for the aesthetic attractiveness of Freemasonry might generate by virtue of its connections to the practice of art, the profession of law and the mysterious inner workings of “the great world.” Pionke p3

In The Christmas Carol, Scrooge discovers the true meaning of Christmas and become more philanthropic. Dickens was well known in London for his philanthropy and once spoke at Freemasons Hall to help raise funds:

On 9 February 1858, Dickens spoke at the hospital's first annual festival dinner at Freemasons' Hall and later gave a public reading of A Christmas Carol at St. Martin-in-the-Fields church hall. The events raised enough money to enable the hospital to purchase the neighbouring house, No. 48 Great Ormond Street, increasing the bed capacity from 20 to 75.

The CBS Sunday Morning recently had an excellent story on Dickens talking about some of his personal turmoil and the influence upon his writings.
Anthony Mason of CBS asked actor Ralph Fiennes who plays Dickens in a film he director “The Invisible Woman”, what he thought of Dickens: 

Mason asked Fiennes, "Did you like Dickens when you were done?"

"I like Dickens, yeah, I do," replied Fiennes. "I think Dickens is like a hungry child determined to entertain you. And a scarily perceptive child who's going, 'There's this and there's this and there's this,' and the furious imagination that just can't stop. And where that comes from is just one of those mysteries. You don't know quite where, it just happens to come from a man called Charles Dickens."

So while not a Freemason himself, Dickens was aware of the fraternity and its impact on the society of his day. Why he himself did not join will remain with the ages.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


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), and Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL). He's a member of both the Scottish Rite, and the York Rite, and is the Charter Secretary of the Illini High Twelve Club in Champaign-Urbana. He's also a member of the Ansar Shrine (IL) and the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees. He holds membership also in The Masonic Society, The Scottish Rite Research Society and the Philalethes Society. Greg is very involved in Boy Scouts--an Eagle Scout himself, he serves the Grand Lodge of Illinois A. F. & A. M. as their representative to the National Association of Masonic Scouters.

Simon Lake

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Jim Stapleton

Simon Lake was a prolific inventor who helped usher in a new age in submarine design. He was born on September 4, 1866, in Pleasantville, NJ. Lake began his Masonic career when he was made a Mason in Monmouth Lodge No. 172 in Atlantic Highlands, NJ. He eventually affiliated with Ansantawae Lodge No. 89 in Milford, CT, later in life. 

People long imagined underwater travel, and numerous attempts were made to build undersea craft. These efforts varied in shape, construction materials, and means of propulsion. Some were intended for exploration, while others were meant exclusively for warfare. However, these early vessels didn’t include many of the elements that we think of as essential in modern submarines, such as airlocks, periscopes, double hulls, and even-keel descent. It wasn’t until Simon Lake began designing submarines that these features were developed.

Lake dreamt of traveling deep in the ocean and was inspired by Jules Verne’s book Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. He took great joy in sailing the waters around New Jersey and Pennsylvania during his youth. He grew up surrounded by family members who were inventors and engineers. From a young age, Lake liked to tinker with mechanical devices and often took machines apart and put them back together again. It was the combination of his mechanical abilities and a strong yearning for underwater travel that fed the drive to develop his innovations.

In 1894, Lake built the Argonaut Junior to test his concepts. The Argonaut Junior was about 14 feet long and made of wood. After proving some of his ideas, he constructed the larger Argonaut I. In 1898, the Argonaut I sailed from Norfolk, VA, to New York City under its own power. This marked the first time an undersea craft traveled such a distance in the open sea. Lake was very proud that he received a cable with a congratulatory message from Jules Verne after that voyage.

Lake primarily envisioned his submarines serving in the role of defense and salvage.  He did attempt to sell his submarines to the US Navy. However, the US Navy did not initially make a deal with Lake and instead bought submarines from his chief competitor, John P. Holland. This led Simon Lake to travel to Europe where he sold submarines to countries like Russia, Germany, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He eventually returned to the United States when World War I began and entered into a relationship with the US Navy. He continued designing vessels and helped advise the Navy through World War II.






Jim Stapleton is the Senior Warden of USS New Jersey Lodge No. 62. He is also a member of the New Jersey Lodge of Masonic Research and Education No. 1786. Jim received the Distinguished White Apron Award from the Grand Lodge of New Jersey. He was awarded the Daniel Carter Beard Masonic Scouter Award. Jim is also a member of the Society of King Solomon.

Concerning the Overabundance of Masonic Publications and Scarcity of Contributors

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Patrick Dey

A phenomenon I have noticed in recent years that I feel needs to be called out is that there appears to be an overabundance of platforms for Masonic publications (e.g. magazines, newsletters, conferences, blogs, podcasts, YouTube channels, et al), yet simultaneously a scarcity of content for all these platforms. This abundance and scarcity, however, appear to be mutually inclusive.

I first noticed this phenomenon back during the lockdown of 2020 until about 2022, especially with occult and esoteric podcasts and YouTube channels. Prior to lockdown, there were only a handful of esoteric podcasts and YouTube channels. They had a regular schedule of posting content. Some channels posted every week, some every month, and only a few posted whenever they felt like it, but they posted such quality material that their irregular schedule was forgivable. Then lockdown happened, and suddenly more people had more free time. Further, many people were out of the job, and needed a means to generate some revenue, so they used this as an opportunity to hustle and make some money off of everything they know and enjoy doing. Suddenly the internet exploded with new channels with an abundance of esoteric content to consume. This was complemented by the fact that many people had more time to consume all this content, so the demand matched the market, and vice versa. It was glorious for about two years.

Then as COVID restrictions started to ease and more people had to start commuting again, working in an office, and losing all that free time, these channels that exploded onto the scene suddenly became sporadic in posting content, or they went dormant entirely.

Take for instance the YouTube channel Mr. Ballen, who tells strange and dark true stories. He used to do TikTok shorts and then started to do longer format content on YouTube. He is a great storyteller and produces very enjoyable content to consume. At one point he was posting three or four, sometimes five times a week, but it was clear the momentum that drove him to post so often ran down very quickly and now he only posts once a week. We all noticed this, no matter what content we choose to consume on these platforms. And it is sad to see so many great platforms that produced so much great content, and now so many reside in the graveyards of what once was.

What I think is worse is that so many of these channels have Patreon accounts. At the time, I had money so I was happy to contribute so that these individuals could keep producing the content I enjoyed. However, when I started to notice that many of these people had not posted anything in months, I had to start canceling my monthly contributions. Then eventually I had to start going through my subscription lists and just unsubscribing from these inactive channels. What is sad is that I have gone back to a number of these channels and checked their Patreons and realized that there are still people sending these “creators” money though they have produced nothing in over a year or more. It really is sad. 

But the urge to start your own blog, podcast, YouTube, et cetera still persists. Recently on Facebook, I saw an occultist that I follow start talking about starting her own occult podcast. She has published several books, teaches a number of online courses, has been on dozens of podcast interviews, and she is very prolific. I appreciate her work, but I wondered why she felt compelled to start her own channel. Would she have time to maintain it on a regular schedule? That ontop of everything else she does. Is she expecting Patreon support, even if she gets bored with the podcast and stops producing? Is she contributing anything new? Or would it be better to support an existing podcast or channel? And this is not just occult, or history, or weird stories, et al channels. I see this in Masonry as well.

I recently was talking to a new Master Mason who wants to start his own podcast. While I do not want to discourage anyone from pursuing their own path for disseminating Masonic education, I asked him why he had not considered first contributing to an existing channel? Reach out and see if they want to do a collaboration to keep up regular content creation? He also wanted to start a blog. I asked why he had not considered first contributing to an existing blog or even a magazine? He just really wanted to do his own thing. That was all.

And I get that. Sometimes we are doing something unique, aiming for something that other platforms are not willing to accept or is just not compatible. When I published my book on the collected poetry of Lawrence N. Greenleaf, my manuscript kept being rejected by poetry publishers because it was antiquated, and rejected by history publishers because it was too Masonic, and I did not get responses from any Masonic publishers except two, and one said it was too political (because Greenleaf was very political). I ultimately decided to create my own publishing company because the work would not fit into any other publisher’s portfolio, and I ultimately wanted control over the content. So I get that sometimes we are trying to do something original, inimitable, and unique that necessitates starting our own channel or whatever. However…

What is perplexing is that I see new channels, new blogs, et cetera popping up and then going dormant very soon thereafter. At the same time, the existing, well-established platforms are struggling to get contributors. Earlier this year, this very blog, The Midnight Freemasons, had to announce a new posting schedule, posting less every month than in previous years, due to lack of contributions. It was sad, as I love this blog and I’ve been reading it for years. At the same time, I see new Masonic blogs popping up every few months, I start following them, and then I see their content tapers off and within a year they are dormant. The existing blogs would have benefited from those content contributions and then we would not see another dead blog in the ether.

Similarly, there are magazines. I have been editor of the Rocky Mountain Masons for about six years now. Every issue Ben and I tend to have to write additional content just to fill space, oftentimes without our names attached to certain articles just so it does not appear that one or two people wrote the whole issue. And recently I learned of a brother who wants to start another Masonic magazine, not in Colorado, but still. There are loads of Masonic periodicals out there, many struggle to fill content, and now there is a desire to start another publication.

Podcasts are worse. In Issue 27 of the Rocky Mountain Mason, I interviewed Robert Johnson of the Whence Came You? podcast. In that interview, I asked him why his channel is so successful and he stated: “When I started, it was just Scott Blasken and Brent S. Morris (The Life Masonic), and some old episodes of shows that never really took off for various reasons, mostly consistency. Fast forward just five years from then, there were around ten others. Now there are handfuls, more than twenty, I reckon. But I think that’s what people liked about WCY. It’s the cadence. Knowing that every Monday there is an episode for you. The graveyard of Masonic podcasts grows every year.”

Of the dozens, probably far more than twenty Masonic podcasts — I reckon over fifty — so many are dormant or post so infrequently that no one ever pays attention to them. I see they have loads of subscribers, but very few downloads. And this is what makes Whence Came You? and The Masonic Roundtable successful: they have a schedule and more or less stick to that regular schedule. Sure, they may take a holiday every so often or post a day or two late, but they post regularly, so there is always something there for your enjoyment.

It is very rare that a channel will post irregularly and for it to maintain a following. The Atun-Shei Films YouTube channel I think is a good example. Andy really only posts when he completes a project, which can be anywhere from four to six weeks from his last upload, sometimes longer. But he produces very high-quality videos. Good production quality, good script, well put together, et cetera, and so his infrequent schedule ends up being forgivable, because when he does upload a video, you know you are getting a treat, something you will probably watch multiple times. But again, this is a rare example.

It would seem any Mason who recognizes a certain desire to generate educational or editorial content, for some odd reasons does not see the need to contribute to existing platforms, but to start their own. And I have to advise: unless you think you can maintain a regular schedule, not just post whenever you feel like it, it might be better to contribute to something existing. That way, when you don’t have time or energy, your blog, channel, whatever, does not suffer, and the existing platforms get a boost of content to keep themselves going.

For instance, I read a lot of books and especially Masonic books. Lately, I have not had the energy to write many original research papers for the Rocky Mountain Mason, so I have been writing book reviews. I have been debating with myself if I should do a Masonic book review channel. Book review channels on YouTube are popular, because there is a lot of literature out there, and we don’t all have the time to read everything we want, so reviews are good, because they give us insight into whether the book is worth to effort, or if the review will suffice. So I did some digging and found there have only been two or three Masonic book review channels on YouTube, and they died after only a few months. And they seemed like good channels, so it was sad to see them die so quickly.

I guess that is the thing: the initial impetus behind wanting to start your own channel or podcast is usually because you know some stuff, and you can already imagine three or four episodes, and that is enough to start. But after that… what do you have? Do you also possess the motivation to keep working to produce more content? Because if it took you four years to get all the knowledge to you now possess to do four episodes, do you really have the energy to work really hard to produce new content within a month? Because I do not see many channels that upload longer than a month-long interim do very well? Do you know if you can make this happen for more than a year? It usually takes a year of regular content for a channel to appease the algorithm gods.

I certainly do not have the energy to do it, nor really the time. Maybe one day I will start a channel, but right now nor the foreseeable future seems doable for me.

So my advice, especially for new Masons: try contributing to existing platforms that have an established reputation and fanbase before you try to start your own thing. Not just because you are going to have to work really hard to build a following and if you don’t have the energy to maintain regular content for over a year, then your work will barely be noticed. You will get more attention by contributing to existing platforms, and it will strengthen those existing platforms that have the following, but always lack the content.


Patrick M. Dey is a Past Master of Nevada Lodge No. 4 in the ghost town of Nevadaville, Colorado, and currently serves as their Secretary, and is also a Past Master of Research Lodge of Colorado. He is a Past High Priest of Keystone Chapter No. 8, Past Illustrious Master of Hiram Council No. 7, Past Commander of Flatirons Commandery No. 7. He currently serves as the Exponent (Suffragan) of Colorado College, SRICF of which he is VIII Grade (Magister). He is the Editor of the Rocky Mountain Mason magazine, serves on the Board of Directors of the Grand Lodge of Colorado’s Library and Museum Association, and is the Deputy Grand Bartender of the Grand Lodge of Colorado (an ad hoc, joke position he is very proud to hold). He holds a Masters of Architecture degree from the University of Colorado, Denver, and works in the field of architecture in Denver, where he resides with wife and son.

From the archives: George Washington's 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation

by Midnight Freemasons Contributor
W. B. Gregory Knott
The third installment of Gregory Knott's Freedom Trail series.

Editor's note: Greg Knott wrote this roughly ten years ago, as it was first published on 11/21/12.  In searching for articles to place on the blog for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, given all that has transpired in our nation over the past ten years, I thought it might be appropriate to repost it, and ask you to contemplate the masonic values within it.   

Written by George Washington in 1789, this was the first official Presidential Proclamation made in the United States.  Shortly after the Thanksgiving Proclamation was written, it was lost for 130 years.  It was probably misplaced when the US Capitol moved from New York to Washington, D.C.  It now resides in the Library of Congress.  And it reads:

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to “recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3d day of October, A.D. 1789.

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), and Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL). He's a member of both the Scottish Rite, and the York Rite, and is the Charter Secretary of the Illini High Twelve Club in Champaign-Urbana. He's also a member of the Ansar Shrine (IL). Greg is very involved in Boy Scouts--an Eagle Scout himself, he serves the Grand Lodge of Illinois A. F. & A. M. as their representative to the National Association of Masonic Scouters.

Seeds of Dissent The Origins of Anti-Masonry - Part 4 – Post-Revolutionary Resurgence

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

Once the American and French Revolutions were in the rear-view mirror, anti-Masonry again began creeping out into the open. Strong voices, including future president John Quincy Adams (1767-1848), John Robinson (1739-1805), and Reverend Jedidiah Morse (1761-1826), came on the scene to voice their opposition to the Freemasons. 

In 1798, Robinson published a scathing 240-page diatribe with the daunting title, Proofs of a Conspiracy against all the Religions and Governments of Europe, carried on in the secret meetings of Freemasons, Illuminati, and Reading Societies. Morse picked up on the views expressed in Robinson's book, preaching sermons against the Freemasons and Illuminati, claiming they had incited the French Revolution. This prompted George Washington, clarifying the separation between Freemasonry, the Illuminati, and the still-active Jacobites to respond:1

It was not my intention to doubt that, the Doctrines of the Illuminati, and principles of Jacobinism had not spread in the United States. On the contrary, no one is more truly satisfied of this fact than I am. The idea that I meant to convey, was, that I did not believe that the Lodges of Free Masons in this Country had, as Societies, endeavored to propagate the diabolical tenets of the first, or pernicious principles of the latter (if they are susceptible of separation). That Individuals of them may have done it, or that the founder, or instrument employed to found, the Democratic Societies in the United States, may have had these objects; and actually had a separation of the People from their Government in view, is too evident to be questioned.

Still,  a growing segment of the population continued to be wary of the Freemasons. The mystique of the Craft's secret nature gave way, for some, to suspicions and rumors of brewing conspiracies, its gentry-based membership drew accusations of elitism, and objections by organized religion continued.

Within the Catholic Church, anti-Masonry became more intense. In 1739, Cardinal Firrao issued an edict imposing the death penalty for anyone disobeying In eminenti.2 In 1751, Pope Benedict XIV issued Providas Romanorum Pontificum which reaffirmed Clement's bull of 1738, condemning Freemasonry based on its demand for oaths, secrecy, religious ecumenism, and its perceived opposition to the Church and State. In 1821 Pope Pius VII issued Ecclesiam a Jesu Christo, reinforcing opposition to Freemasonry based on its oath-bound secrecy. Leo XII published Quo graviora mala in 1825 condemning Freemasonry as a secret oath-binding society.

The Catholic church has issued many condemnations of Freemasonry since that time. However, after Quo graviora mala in 1825 little additional condemnation was necessary to change public opinion about the Craft. The following year, a man named William Morgan came on the scene and superseded anything the church could have done to turn the tide against the Masons.

Morgan's threats to reveal Masonic secrets and the Freemasons' ill-advised response garnered an anti-Masonic wave that swept the country, led to the formation of the anti-Masonic political party, forced the closing of many lodges, prompted many men to leave and disavow Freemasonry, and changed American history.

1 George Washington to Washington, D.C., Commissioners, October 27, 1798 https://www.loc.gov/resource/mgw2.021/?sp=201

2 Many arrests were made in Florence, but no death sentences were known to be carried out.


Bro. Steve Harrison, 33° is Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri. He is also a Fellow and Past Master of the Missouri Lodge of Research. Among his other Masonic memberships is the St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite bodies, and Moila Shrine. He is also a member and Past Dean of the DeMolay Legion of Honor. Brother Harrison is a regular contributor to the Midnight Freemasons blog as well as several other Masonic publications. Brother Steve was Editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine for a decade and is a regular contributor to the Whence Came You podcast. Born in Indiana, he has a Master's Degree from Indiana University and is retired from a 35-year career in information technology. Steve and his wife Carolyn reside in northwest Missouri. He is the author of dozens of magazine articles and three books: Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi, Freemasons — Tales From the Craft and Freemasons at Oak Island.

Developing Soul Consciousness in This Digital Age

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Joseph Covell

In the year 2023, there may not exist a more appropriate way to begin this introductory personal expose’ on developing Soul Consciousness in the digital age, than by asking OpenAi’s ever-popular ChatGPT this question of all questions. For those still unaware of ChatGPT, when asking the web-based version available on chat.openai.com, it itself identifies as, ‘An artificial intelligence language model,” (more commonly referred to as AI). When posing it the question of what it means to you to be soul conscious, a response generates as follows, “Being ‘soul conscious’ typically refers to a state of heightened awareness and connection to one's inner self or soul. It is often associated with spiritual or philosophical beliefs and practices, and its meaning can vary depending on individual perspectives and cultural contexts.” 

This might prove to be an oversimplification of a subject matter that has taken innumerable scholars, authorities, and philosophers many lifetimes to attempt to answer in a language understood by the profane. What exactly does it mean to be Soul Conscious? It is the belief that within each of us, there is a piece of the divinity or God, with an appropriate name for this piece being a soul spark. It is therefore the ultimate goal to awaken this soul spark and to bring it into consciousness. This simply instructible yet extremely difficult to execute task is what the Alchemists referred to as, ‘turning lead into gold,’ or likewise the search for, ‘the philosopher’s stone.’ This is achieved through the transmutation of the undesirable aspects of our everyday mortal and carnal lives (the lead) into those refined and desirable traits (the gold), which all good men and women should aspire to acquire. To what benefit would that aid in daily life might be a commonly raised question. Always remember that nothing that is truly of benefit to the body, mind, and spirit will be refused by the sincere seeker. Insert the dealer’s choice of catchy cliché phraseology along the lines of knock and it shall be answered unto you, and the meaning will still hold true. 

One of those aforementioned scholars, authorities, and philosophers mentioned in the above would include Dr. R. Swinburne Clymer. In Dr. Clymer’s work, ‘The Science of the Soul,’ he passionately proclaims the following, “Soul development, the unfolding of the God-born entity within, is the one and only way to attain Conscious Individuality. Neither creed nor dogma, nor ‘faith without works’ can help the Soul, unless such creed, dogma or faith acts as an incentive to nobler thinking, more exalted desires and greater effort to become Cosmic Conscious as the Father planned we should.” When searching for more Dr. Clymer quotes to provide input, attention is focused on his early work, ‘The Philosophy of Fire,’ with this next set of quotes, “The evil deed in its reaction DESTROYS or CONSUMES TO THE DEGREE OF ITS EVILNESS. This destroying activity of the Law is indeed a Fire, because it BURNS ALL EVIL as so clearly stated by St. John’s revelation that all ‘Chaff’ (evil) will be BURNED UP. God does NOT DO ANY BURNING or CONSUMING; the RE-ACTION OR MAN’S EVIL DEEDS DOES THE BURNING UP.”  To clarify it even further, “It is dangerous for any one to attempt to come into the presence of God, or the Fire in which He may appear if such persons have not carefully and thoroughly prepared themselves.”

With offerings from the machine learning all-star ChatGPT contrasted to that of a credited arcane scholar from the early part of the 20th century in those the words of Dr. R. Swinburne Clymer. We will revisit the works of Dr. Clymer regularly, along with many other highly known and those more obscure Masonic and Esoteric authorities. 

The purpose of this journal’s exercise is to have some fun with the various new AI platforms out there and learn how we can work with it to learn more about the topics we want to learn about, in an entertaining though enlightening manner. The topics and thoughts will go much deeper than that generalization, with an underlining focus on how to achieve soul consciousness in the digital age. The current age being one in which we are all constantly both consciously and unconsciously bombarded by images and frequencies of all sorts of depravity, and “sin,” meaning that which is not good for the body, mind, and soul. We can take the exercise even further with AI and ask it to respond in the voice of a desired authority from whom we could only imagine what the actual response might be, regarding the topic of obtaining soul consciousness. In fundamental Masonic tongue, without the intent to sound cliche, this would be the mission of making good men better. 

When asking ChatGBT what George Washington would have to say regarding the process of obtaining soul consciousness, and with emphasis on providing sources for the answer, this is what the powerful AI had to say: “George Washington did not specifically address the concept of ‘soul consciousness’ in the way that it might be understood in modern esoteric or spiritual contexts. His writings and speeches primarily revolved around governance, liberty, duty, and the foundation of the United States.

However, Washington was deeply moral and often spoke about Divine Providence, virtue, character, and duty. We can infer from these ideas how he might approach the subject of spiritual growth or soul consciousness.

Here are a few quotes by George Washington that give insights into his moral and spiritual views:

  1. “The hand of providence has been so conspicuous in all this, that he must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith, and more than wicked, that has not gratitude enough to acknowledge his obligations.” - Letter to Brigadier General Thomas Nelson, August 20, 1778

  2. “Human happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected.” - Farewell Address, September 19, 1796

  3. "It is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor." - Thanksgiving Proclamation, October 3, 1789

While these quotes touch upon the ideas of divine providence, morality, and duty, they don't directly address the modern concept of soul consciousness. Washington's views were very much framed by the religious and philosophical contexts of his time, which were Christian in nature and grounded in Enlightenment thinking. In extrapolating these quotes, one might surmise that for Washington, achieving a higher consciousness or spiritual awakening might be tied to living virtuously, acknowledging divine providence, and fulfilling one's duties with integrity.”

As an antidote when requesting ChatGbt to answer that question as if George Washington was answering himself, the AI responds with, “In my reflections upon the Divine Providence that has so evidently shaped our young nation, I've come to discern that a gentleman's quest for a heightened understanding — what some might term 'soul consciousness' — is deeply interwoven with the sacred duties of virtue, character, and reverence for the Almighty. As I have oft remarked, 'The hand of providence has been so conspicuous in all this, that he must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith.' It stands to reason, then, that one's spiritual elevation is inextricably tied to living virtuously, acknowledging the hand of God in all matters, and executing one's duties with unwavering integrity. As I've written before, 'Human happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected.' Let these words serve as a compass for those venturing on such noble pursuits." 

The plan for this journal will be to periodically revisit when inspiration strikes and time permits. The intent is to not just compare various AI to the words of authorities from the past but to focus on the task at hand of developing soul consciousness in the digital age. This will require combatting any unwanted thoughts, words, and deeds that are coming at us from every angle these days. Until the next entry, let us journey inward and focus on those undesirable traits or lead and try our best to transmute them into the desirable or gold, then we will be truly qualified to help make good men better! 


Joe Covell is new to Masonry, having been raised in March of 2022 at Quakertown Lodge No. 512 in Quakertown, Pennsylvania. He is a student of Esoteric Philosophy since 2016 and loves to discuss it with like-minded brethren. He is involved in The Valley of Allentown AASR where he helps administer the Valley’s social media accounts. He is a member of Lansdale Royal Arch Chapter No. 301, Doylestown Cryptic Council No. 51, Damascus Commandery No. 95, and a Noble of LuLu Shrine. He has plans to highlight Masonic Education by facilitating study groups on various topics at his Blue Lodge. He is currently going through the chairs at Quakertown Lodge No. 512, as well as the other bodies of which he is a member.