There Are No “Perfect” Ashlars

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Erik M. Geehern

This past December, as the new year approached, I was discussing my actions and behavior over the past year when it comes to Masonry with a friend and Brother.  That discussion around our ashlars and the work of perfecting them led me to write what follows as a thought exercise and introspection on one of the key principles of our Craft.

As Masons, we are taught that we begin our Masonic journey as a rough ashlar. A stone from the quarry that is jagged, rough, unprepared, or undressed. This stone has tremendous potential, but in its current state, it is not quite ready to be utilized to build something magnificent. This is an allegory to an uninitiated man before he discovers any Light in Masonry. We are taught that by using the working tools, by chipping off the corners and rough edges we can transform ourselves, fitting our minds as living stones for that house not made with hands. Through Masonic education, service to the Craft, and Brotherly love we must strive to achieve an upstanding life and obtain enlightenment, becoming that perfect ashlar.

Being a relatively newer Mason, only being Raised a few years ago, I have already come to a realization… there are no perfect ashlars.

Our Lodge is almost 170 years old. The roster has stayed at about forty to fifty Brothers since I joined, on a great Stated Meeting night we might have twelve Brothers attend, we usually have six or seven. Realistically, as a percentage of active members that isn’t too bad. Over the past few years, we’ve had some internal disagreements, old guard vs new guard, building changes, and so on. The disagreements, from an outsider’s point of view, seemed to me to be more of the status quo contending with implementing change. I’m sure it surprises no one reading this that sometimes there are differences in opinion within the Lodge that cause strife. But what did surprise me was how each individual Brother within the Lodge handled themselves throughout this time.

Now that the proverbial dust has settled and we are in our new building and resuming the true work of Masonry, I have been reflecting on the past few years and their impact, not just on the Lodge, but on myself as a man and Mason. Our Lodge has members that range in age from their early thirties through their late nineties, consisting of Past District Deputies, Right Worshipfuls, Very Worshipfuls, Worshipfuls, DSA Recipients, and those of us newly Raised. In my observation none of us, myself included, acted in a way that was “perfect” over the past few years. Whether it be letting our egos control our behavior or reactions, speaking negatively about a fellow Brother, or some other negative response or action, not a single Brother truly subdued their passions entirely. Now, some certainly did a better job of utilizing their common gavels to divest their minds and consciences of all the vices and superfluities of life better than others did, but in the end, we are all just men… imperfect, at times rough around the edges, with room for personal improvement.

There are a few Brothers specifically I look to as models of what a good Mason should be, mentors I look to for guidance, and Light. Yet, even they are not without the occasional rough edge, whether it be a disparaging comment, an acceptance of another Brother’s poor behavior when something should be said, or generally neglecting to whisper wise counsel when doing so could help another Brother grow as a man and Mason.

I am very cognizant of the fact that my ashlar in its current state has quite a bit of work to be done on it, that is why I am here, why I wanted to be a Mason. My ashlar will never be perfect, and that is alright, no Mason’s ever is. This temple we are building within ourselves will never be completed. The goal is to strive for continuous improvement. Continue to break off those rough edges, seek out more Light, show more Brotherly love, and help others learn and grow. The perfect ashlar is the target, not a goal. It can never be achieved, at least not on earth.

We have a lot of work to do in our Lodge to repair relationships, drive membership and make our new building our long-time home, and I look forward to the weeks, months, and years ahead with great optimism. Working with my Brothers, on the building, the Lodge, and our own individual ashlars is sure to be a challenge and a reward, we know these words to be true, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” Psalm 133:1.

Perhaps, at the end of our journey, when we finally lay down our working tools and the record of our life is read, those who continued to work in their quarry and refine their ashlar will be honored by the Great Architect of the Universe with those words “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”

Erik M. Geehern is currently Junior Warden of Goshen Masonic Lodge #365 in Goshen, NY under the Grand Lodge of New York. He was raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason in October of 2019 and since then has served as Assistant Secretary, Mentor, and Charitable Committee member and chairman. He writes and curates a newsletter for his Lodge quarterly which disseminates education, history, and esoterics. He is also a member of the Grand College of Rites and the Kansas Lodge of Research. He works in restaurant operations & consulting, and when not engaged in his usual vocation, or laboring in the Craft, he loves spending time with his wife and two children.

Masonic Education - A How To Guide

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners

Editor's Note:  The below is a reworked article from the Grand Lodge of Illinois A.F.&A.M. Educational Magazine, The Lyceum.  As that article was focused on how Education is structured in Illinois, I have edited it to make it more generic. 

One of the questions that Masonic Educators get asked most often is how to perform Masonic Education. Before I get started with that, I want to make a very important distinction between Masonic Education and Masonic Instruction. Masonic Instruction is learning the ritual, floor work, and everything else that relates to the work being performed within a tyled lodge. Masonic Education is learning about the meaning behind the work being performed within a tyled lodge. This includes the meanings behind what we say and sometimes why we say it. All the meanings of the symbols, floor work, ritual, and philosophical discussions about them fall under the realm of Masonic Education. Both are equally important; however, Masonic Instruction usually varies by Masonic District. Most districts that I am familiar with have a version of what is called a Worker’s Club, which is a separate meeting where the ritual and floorwork are being taught. 

Unfortunately, Masonic Education is not given such priority. It is usually reserved for the last item of business, assuming you even have it on your Meeting Agenda. What this has meant for me, speaking from experience, is that if your business meeting is not well organized, the Masonic Educator is forced to give a presentation or lead a discussion for a bunch of tired and cranky brethren.

The first thing that one must do to prioritize Masonic Education within their lodge is to move it to be the first item of business on the Agenda after the Pledge and Opening of the meeting. This will require a discussion with the Worshipful Master and in some cases, a Lodge By-Law change, if your lodge has the meeting agenda set by By-Law. I am writing this article under the assumption that your lodge is open to Education, so neither of the above should be an issue. If your lodge is not open to Education, then I would urge you to speak with your Worshipful Master, Lodge Education Officer, District Education Officer, or Area Education Officer (Assuming your structure is similar to Illinois).  In a worst-case scenario, you should visit other lodges in your district to see if there is a lodge where education is a priority and move your membership there. I hate to say this as a Masonic Educator, but there are some lodges where Masonic Education isn’t part of the lodge culture, and no matter how much one member tries, that lodge culture isn’t going to change. In these cases, it is better for one to move lodges or plural at a lodge where Education is a priority.

Once education is prioritized at your meeting, it will be incumbent upon the sitting Master to appoint a Lodge Education Officer, who will oversee preparing and presenting Education for each meeting. If you are the one who is pushing to improve the educational efforts in your lodge, don’t be surprised if this person is you. The question you are now asking yourself is most likely: Now What????

As Lodge Education Officer, you should focus on the below two things.

1. Providing Self Study opportunities for the lodge members.

2. Providing Educational Content for the lodge members.

I will explain each step in detail below.

1. Providing Self Study opportunities for the lodge members.

A. Providing self–study opportunities for your lodge members is probably the easiest way to try to get them engaged in Masonic Education. You should recommend podcasts from the below link to the brethren in your area.

You can also recommend books from these lists some of which are public domain:

or direct them to and ask them pick out something to read.

2. Providing Educational Content for the lodge members

Providing Educational Content for the lodge members is probably one of the most intimidating things that faces a Masonic Educator.  However, it should not be. Here are some ideas as to how to provide Lodge Education:

A. Know your audience. Warning: If you are interested in Esoteric Studies but your lodge is not, the surest way to burn them out and wear out your welcome as an educator is to tackle a complex Esoteric subject. You will need to gauge the interest of your lodge when it comes to topics for Masonic Education. I would suggest the first Education be a discussion with the lodge members of what topics they would like to discuss at future meetings. Here are some topics that you can offer them: The History of the Grand Lodge of Illinois, The History of Freemasonry, The Deeper Meaning behind our Symbols and Ritual, The History of our Ritual, Contemplative Masonry (Basic Applications of Mindfulness and Meditation guided by Masonic Ritual), Self-Improvement, and lastly: American Masonic History. Get their opinions and try to cover the topics that they are interested in. You should also survey them to see how they might prefer to learn. Some lodges might have members that would prefer to watch a video instead of listening to a presenter. Be sure to make sure you note their preferences and try to cater your education to their preferences. Also, try to network within your district to find brethren that share similar interests to you so that you can have an outlet for discussing Masonic topics that you might be interested in but that your fellow lodge members are not.

B. Once you know your audience, you will need to pick your topic for your education. You can use any of the resources above to help you in creating your presentation. Also don’t be afraid to use the Intender Handbooks, Short Talk Bulletins, the Lyceum, or the internet. The Midnight Freemasons Blog has a lot of articles on various subjects that you can use ( for Masonic Education. If you have a lodge that prefers video learning, don’t be afraid to use YouTube. The Masonic Minute series by Illustrious Bro. Steve Harrison is a good resource to use, as well as Refracted Light. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a speaker to see if they can present either in person or virtually if you can do so ( Just remember the steps below when creating the presentation for the topic you have chosen.

C. Follow the K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle. Any subject you present should not be too complex or at the very least have a way to translate it to be easily understood by all the members of your lodge. The topic or Topics that you choose to present should be thought of as a building block for future education. For Example, instead of trying to discuss the hidden meaning behind all the symbols given in the Third-Degree explanatory lecture during one education session, present them one at a time over the course of your stated meetings. When creating a presentation, imagine that you are trying to explain the topic you are presenting to a child. Just because you have a firm grasp on a subject does not mean that everyone else will also.

D. Lodge Education should not be a monologue. Lodge Education when done properly engages everyone present at the lodge meeting to participate in a healthy dialogue about the topic being presented. It is your job as the Masonic Educator to guide these discussions. The best way to do this is to have either a list of questions to ask your lodge their opinions about after your presentation or develop talking points for a discussion. Don’t be afraid to try to engage members of your lodge who don’t normally participate by asking them questions directly. The goal of Masonic Education is to make sure that everyone is participating and learning not only about the subject but also about the opinions or beliefs of their brethren.

E. You should try to have the educational program as well as the discussion involved around it last no more than 20 to 30 minutes. Any longer, you’re probably going to bore your brethren and/or push the time that the meeting closes back past many Grumpy Past Masters bedtimes. Be adaptable. Maybe your lodge is in the middle of a good discussion about the meaning of the term “Foreign Countries” in our ritual, don’t stop it just because the 30 minutes is up. On the reverse side, if you’re having a hard time getting members to engage in discussion on a topic, don’t be afraid to stop the education and move on with the meeting. There’s always the next meeting. You’re not always going to hit a home run. You’ll strike out some also. It happens. Don’t let it keep you from going back to the plate.

F. Use your DEO and AEO. Don’t be afraid to bounce ideas off your District Education Officer or your Area Education Officer or ask them for help.

G. Lastly, Use your imagination. The sky is the limit. Don’t be afraid to try different things. If you want to plan a Burns Dinner, then don’t be afraid to do so. Similarly for a Festive Board, Table Lodge, Masonic Symposium. Again, try to network with brethren in other lodges as well to help plan bigger events with their lodges, many hands make light work.

I hope you find this guide useful to help you start meaningful Masonic Education at your lodge. I can’t stress point F above enough. If you need help, don’t be afraid to ask for it. If your DEO can’t assist you, then go to your AEO. Masonic Education is easy once you know how to do it.


WB Darin A. Lahners is our 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 Fifteen - Masonic Memes

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB. Bill Hosler

It was a typical evening meal in the lodge's dining hall.  Frozen lasagna purchased from the local big box store was served on paper plates and eaten with clear plastic forks.  The bag of salad was sitting on the counter, uneaten and unopened, next to the store-brand ranch dressing.  Some members have often joked that the salad was bought during the first year the lodge had been chartered.  

The conversation at the tables was pretty much the same conversation that had been going on for decades.  The same old jokes and memories from years gone by.  It was pleasant dinner talk by friends who, over the years, had become brothers - as sure as if by birth.

The quiet, polite talk was stifled by the sound of the front door of the temple being loudly slammed.  Heavy footsteps coming down the hall revealed that the noise was coming from Worshipful Brother Carl Bauer.  His face was red with anger as he stomped into the dining room waving several sheets of paper in his hand.  Carl walked past the counter, and the lasagna, directly to the diners sitting at his normal table.

“Well hi, Carl! How has your day been?” another past master asked while the whole table erupted in laughter, which only further infuriated Carl.  

“How am I doing? How am I doing, you ask?” Carl said in a high-pitched, angry voice, “I'll tell you how I am doing.  I am beside myself with anger!!” 

“Well, I'll be darned!” the Past Master said as the laughter got even louder, matching the rise in Carl's blood pressure.  “What's got you upset, brother?”

“My Grandson was over and brought his computer with him so he could do some school work.  We got talking about how to search for things on the internet.  To practice, I asked him to look up Freemasonry.  His search brought up a lot of pictures.  Some were very nice:  Photos of lodge rooms, Brethren in their aprons.  Things like that.” 

“Then he showed me this website that got my dander up.  There were these pictures of various things with words written across them making fun of Freemasonry.  I had him print these for me.  Here, look at these!”

Carl threw the printed pages in his hand onto the dining room table and spread them all out to be seen.  Upon the pages were photos, some with still photos from movies or photographs from various pages of the Internet.  Various words were superimposed on the photos, much like word balloons on the frame of a comic strip.  These pictures were making fun of masons, ranging from what we wear to how we wear it, even insulting pancake fundraisers and past masters.

“I think these are created by anti-Masons.” Carl snorted in frustration.  “Who else would say such vile things about the Craft!” 

Pudge dropped his plastic fork and picked up one of the photos.  

“Oh, these.” Pudge said as he chuckled a bit, “These are called memes.  I don't think these are the work of “antis”.  “Antis” would be disparaging all of Freemasonry.  Most of these talk only about the way Grand Lodges operate, one-day classes, and things.  Usually, they are created by younger Masons to make each other laugh and to display their frustrations.  Some of them are very funny.”

Carl's eye widened as the vein in his neck bulged out “You are telling me MASONS create these things?” They say a such vile things about our leadership and our Grand Lodges! I refuse to believe a member of our Fraternity would stoop so low.  They should be found out and be thrown out of the Fraternity! Why this is unmasonic! It is blasphemy!”

The 50-year member placed the last bite of the toasted hot dog bun in his mouth. thinking to himself that hot dog buns which have been brushed with garlic butter make a terrible replacement for actual garlic bread, then looked Carl in the eyes.

“You know Carl, it is said for something to be funny it must contain a certain amount of truth.  These young brothers are frustrated.  They join our lodges looking for the thing we say we provide: Self-improvement and a way of making themselves better men.  They come in excited and full of hope then to have their hopes dashed by us older members with the usual clichés like 'We have never done that before' or 'Grand Lodge won't allow us to do that.'   We tell them we provide one thing and then provide another.  How can they not feel bitter?”

“To be honest, I am surprised any of them stick around long enough to vent their frustration.  Honestly, Carl, instead of cursing these young men you should be thanking them for making these, what are they called?” the 50-year member looked to Pudge, “Memes?” 

Pudge nodded to the old man with a little grin. Carl’s reaction, however, was that his blood pressure nearly reached the point of having a stroke. 

Thank them? You have got to be kidding, John! Thank these kids for making a mockery of the Fraternity I have loved and served for so many years? What’s next? Give them a medal for their heresy?”

The 50-year member laughed with a sly smile and said “Well, for one thing, for saving the Fraternity you have loved all these decades.” 

The old man continued “Carl, you, me, and every one of us sitting here has been saying for years that Masonry is dying.  The young people aren’t joining the lodge like they did when we were youngsters.  We went a few years without a single candidate and we were worried this lodge wouldn’t be around much longer.  Then, all of a sudden, those movies came out that made Freemasonry look cool, like something that young pups like Pudge and the others would want to belong to.  They put in a petition to join and then, once they are raised, Freemasonry isn’t like the movie made it out to be.”

The 50-year member looked Carl in the eye and said “The Grand Lodge and leadership of every other Masonic body have been racking their brains with ways to make the young men want to stay around.  They have tried everything: low dues, one-day classes, and loosening requirements to join. All done in hopes of bringing the youth in.  Nothing has worked; in fact, it made the situation worse.  They have done everything they can think of to bring these young men in except for one thing: Ask these men what they want out of the lodge.”

The 50-year member continued “We need to take these... memes... and read them, study them, and analyze them.  If we look past the jokes and the sarcasm we will see what these men want out of Freemasonry and, better yet, what they don’t want.  From what I read here they spell it out.  They don’t want long-winded meetings with arguments and the reading of minutes.”

“They want Freemasonry: To make themselves better men. You ask yourself, Carl, are we giving them that?  How would you feel if you were sold something, and paid your hard-earned money for it to find out it was nothing like you were told it was going to be? I bet you would be sore and complaining to high Heaven and everyone else who would listen that you had been ripped off.  These young fellas are doing the same thing, just in a different way.”

Carl stood still for a moment, staring at the floor.  The color in his face began to return to normal as he cleared his throat and quietly said “I must look like an old fool.  I see what you mean, John.  If I was their age and felt like I had been cheated, or my opinion disregarded, or worse yet, if I thought I was disrespected, I would have done things a lot worse than drawn cartoons with word balloons.  I guess if I were to think about it, these young fellas have a lot more reserve than I would have had.”

The 50-year member rose from his chair and placed his hand on Carl’s shoulder.  “They are good kids. I guess I mean 'young men.'  They are just looking for that which is lost in their generation.  Maybe once you get to know some of them You can help them work through their frustrations about Freemasonry and make this an organization we all will love.  As I have heard many times,  'Harmony being the strength and support of all societies, especially ours.'  Why don’t you sit here with us have some supper and we can all discuss what things we would like to see in our Fraternity.  Who knows, you might find some common ground.”

The Sight and Smell of Stale Masonry

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Mark St. Cyr

The intent of the following is to make one strict point: You must honestly know and understand where you truly are, before, you can contemplate how you can move forward. Anything else is what amateurs posing as professionals do. Period, full stop. 

Here’s the setup… 

Imagine for a moment you’re a person that’s never had the experience of going to a true authentic and artisanal bakery, let alone indulged in its offerings, which used to be commonplace many years ago.  

All you know has come from some supermarket bread aisle. i.e.,  plain, ordinary, sliced, plastic bagged, and tagged bread. 

But you know there’s more. You’ve even seen “fresh baked”  offerings in that same supermarket. But it’s all felt unleavened in both appeal and presentation, with the always lurking question: is this hard because that’s the way it’s supposed to be, or is it stale? 

So, for the umpteenth time, you put it down and seek back to the usual bread aisle to pick up old reliable “bagged and tagged”  because you don’t know how to differentiate and are afraid to ask for fear of appearances.  

But that yearning remains constant for “the real thing.”  

Then, you begin to get serious about wanting this unceasing craving substantiated. So you begin to research in the only place that allows privacy for your, now relentless and inquisitive,  pursuit: Books.

In these books you read about the wondrous properties and delights of creating fresh bread, then, the breaking of it around a  dining table with friends and family. 

You begin with immediacy to somehow smell the overwhelming fragrant aroma of its baking. You can sense the sheer anticipation of delight knowing what comes next with its accompanying rich creamery butter. 

You hear the sounds of satisfaction coming from others as they too partake in their first bites, yours joins them in chorus. 

Both laughter and serious voices dance in the air as conversations of past and future deeds are argued back and forth like fishing stories between friends. Everyone is consumed in conversations all while consuming the fare.  

And this is only the lead-in as you await with bated breath and tastebuds to partake in the main meal with all this near culinary religious experience.  

It’s there you begin to get a glimpse of understanding why the phrase “the bread of life” is used as a metaphor. Or said  differently - you are beginning to “get it.” 

Sounds pretty good, right? 

Now imagine you just went through the above mental exercise more times than you can count via different books and more which has now finally roused you to the point of true exploration.  i.e., reading moves to “knocking.” 

You venture out and find one of those old bakeries in what appears to be a once great building downtown that, maybe, has seen its better days a few years back. 

Undeterred, although with a bit of queasiness in your stomach,  you enter and ask “How to buy?” only to find out it’s a process that will take time, interviews, and more. 

Then, if you are “worthy,” you’ll be able to partake in all that richness you’ve been reading about (not to mention all the accompanying metaphysical drooling).  

Finally, your big day comes. It’s been a near agonizing wait with the suspense and anticipation you’ve created within yourself as you’ve read evermore, studying the founding and evolving processes of bread making from seed cultivation - through the milling processes, both past, and present. And more, much more.  

You can now nearly recite word for word the great artisan baker Alan Poke’s first chapter in “Recipes and Dogma.” i.e., you’ve truly committed honest time and energy to the craft. 

So, the big day has come. you’re told to do this and that in preparation. You’re hoodwinked, and you’re now wondering what all this ‘theater” is truly all about. Things are getting strange. 

You surmise the request for a change of dress is because they don’t want to get flour all over your nice, new dark suit.  

The blindfold must be to keep the secret of the “mother culture”  or “starter dough” that’s been used to keep centuries-old sour dough recipes alive and usable in bread to this day. i.e., Can’t let the “secret recipe” fall into the wrong hands after all, right? 

You keep affirming to yourself “This is so going to be so worth it.” 

Then, after all is said and done. You finally reach the point you’ve waited for with more anticipation than a new puppy about to venture into the great outdoors for its first time.

And the door opens… 

Now after all the preceding theater, either done once via the  “Instant Master Baker” ceremony or, via the traditional “Three and Done” method. It’s now come time for you to take your right place amongst the other Bakers and conduct the true bakery  business of “Baking Bread.” For you are now a fully recognized  “Master Baker.” 

This time you walk into the inner sanctum of the Bakery of your own accord and with eyes wide open. As you enter you’re adorned with your own apron. 

Then, after a bit of mumbo jumbo you needed to memorize and recite, you sit down. And with a wrap of a rolling pin by the head baker - you’re then served some form of generic sliced bread on a disposable plate along with paper tabbed margarine as an accompaniment - and a plastic knife. 

Then the conversations begin, but they’re not anything like the ones you’ve envisioned originally.  

No, now the conversations that loft in the air are about how there’s little gas left in the bakery’s propane tank to store any more bread from the supermarket.  

Arguments begin on why the bread being served is now on a  paper plate rather than china. Guys begin shouting things like  “Who decided we’re going to have no-name margarine instead of  ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!®’ and why there was no vote on  the matter?!” 

As all this is going on you’re approached by a member you  haven’t spoken to more than once, if that, when he asks “So, the  next logical step for you now is to enter the ‘Baker’s line’ so you  can move up the process and gain the title of ‘Most Amazing.’  and run the bakery yourself!’ Are you in?”

You ask “Is there any real baking that’s to be done?” And the  answer comes back “Well, that depends on what you mean by  that, after all, ‘baking’ gives you what you put into it!”  

So you say, “Can I see the baking supplies and ovens, first?”  Only to be greeted with “Oh, no we don’t really do any of that old-time ‘baking’ stuff anymore. We, more or less, ‘Bake More Bread  Better’ via running pancake breakfasts, fish fry’s, and other stuff to raise funds to help those that can’t afford it to buy bread at the  supermarket for themselves.” 

“See, it’s all about being involved in ‘The Community.’ And what we need to help fill that role are people like yourself that can help with the upkeep of the bakery so we can do just that and serve said community. Remember the motto ‘Flour, Water, and  Charity?’ It’s our raison d’être, remember?” 

Then, you return those words that strike fear into every baker  that’s been in the “Baker’s chair” more times than they can  count, hoping you’re going to be the next to relieve them:  

“Um, let me think about it for a bit, OK?”  

Then comes the seasoned response of “Sure.” And they seem to not just walk away, but skulk. You can feel the disappointment,  yet, you don’t even know why. But you know it nonetheless. 

So, the meeting ends, you go home and you think about it.  Your conclusion? 

You end up going back to the supermarket and purchasing one of those “Artisan” loaves of bread that are marked as “Fresh Baked” at the sudo bakery within its walls. 

You take it home, slice off a few, throw them in the toaster, then open the accompanying package of “Grade A Butter” you purchased along with it.  

With an inconsequential “pop” you begin to paste your butter on the now warm, toasted slices trying to reimagine what you dreamt what might have been - but was not. 

But it’s better, cheaper, and far less time-consuming than what you just went through you begin to argue to yourself. 

And with that, you now decide it’s not worth returning, after all, it’s far easier to just visit the supermarket and get some sort of placebo effect at the “bakery” rather, than return to that supposed “real one” where the fare just seems like it been left out too long and gone moldy. 

And with that, another is NPD almost as fast as they joined.  What’s worse, is they’re never going to darken one of those  “bakeries” ever again along with that compound effect of they’ll probably discourage others should ever a conversation pertaining to the idea arises. 

Now here’s the truly frightful prospect to all the above in this… 

Our improvised character now believes the idea of that ideal,  which they searched for and longed for - was all but a long lost dead mirage of what once was - parading around as if it still is. 

Or said differently: Not only are they now encrusted with the blatantly wrong image of what Freemasonry offers. They’ll probably tell anyone who questions them regarding it that it was not only not what they thought it was, but actually, was all kind of weird and actually disappointing, suggesting those inquiring to rethink their query should they ever entertain a notion about joining. 

This is what the vast majority of American Freemasonry is doing to itself. Every. Single. Day. 

And for those arguing that those of us pointing this out need to just shut up, sit down and stop complaining.

All I have to say to you is this: 

Don’t explain to me… 

Explain to yourself how the above (both seeker and/or baker) is not you. 

It’s OK, I’ll wait. 

Mark St.Cyr 


Keeping the Fire: Cormac McCarthy's The Road and What It Tells Us as Freemasons

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Phillip Welshans

In Cormac McCarthy's apocalyptic novel, The Road, the main character and his young son are journeying across the ruined remains of what was once the United States, trying to reach the coast where there are rumors of a sanctuary community. Along the way they contend with a wasteland devoid of life and roving bands of marauders and cannibals. Civilization has been destroyed along with the planet and many of the people they encounter along the way have abandoned all hope and act more like animals than human beings. The novel is as much about The Man and Son (we never learn their names) struggling with their internal feelings of desperation, hopelessness, and fear as it is about their survival amidst the ruins of society.

Despite the external horror and darkness, The Man tries to instill in his son a sense for holding onto what makes them human, what ultimately separates them from the barbarism that has taken hold of the world. The Man calls this ineffable essence "the fire" and its preservation, its fragility, and the obligation each of us as humans have to care for it and pass it on, is one of the central messages of McCarthy's novel.

The Son: "Is the fire real? The fire?"

The Man: "Yes it is."

TS: "Where is it? I don't know where it is."

TM: "Yes you do. It's inside you. It always was there. I can see it."

It goes hand in hand with the deep, unconditional love The Man has for his son as the heart of the story. The Man never defines exactly what "the fire" is, but from the story and context we gather that it is, essentially, the precepts of morality, ethics, and mutual affection that emerged from early humans, became codified over countless generations, and eventually served as the cement for human civilization.

As Freemasons, we are both inheritors and caretakers of "the fire" just as The Man and his son are in The Road. We may not be faced with such an apocalyptic world, but the task is no less important. As we learn when we are charged as Entered Apprentices, more excellent rules and useful maxims have never been laid down than are inculcated in the several Masonic lectures. Those maxims are firmly rooted in an intellectual tradition that reaches back to antiquity with the Greeks and before them arguably to the ancient Egyptians. The lessons we learn in the first three degrees of Masonry are part and parcel of that fire that we often hear described within the Craft as "Masonic Light" or just simply light.

Because the fire, or Masonic Light, is internal to each man, its discovery and nurturing are essentially internal, personal efforts. In his book Contemplating Craft Masonry, W. Kirk MacNulty describes the Fellowcraft degree as an interior ascent into higher consciousness, with the soul as the seat of man's consciousness. The Middle Chamber lecture is the symbolic representation of this journey and its difficulty: ascending through the first three degrees of Masonry, acquiring the knowledge symbolized by the five orders of architecture, and finally acquiring the self-knowledge that each of the seven liberal arts and sciences contains for each man's soul and consciousness, ultimately leads to the Middle Chamber, which MacNulty describes as a place of contemplation within a man's soul, a place from where we each can ruminate on the fire we carry, the immutable Truth of human civilization. "The knowledge of truth," MacNulty writes, "is an interior experience that must take place within each individual."

Whether it be the Four Cardinal Virtues or the Tenets of our Profession in the Blue Lodge, or other mysteries communicated in appendant degrees, we are each charged with taking the lessons of ancient wisdom, applying them to our own lives, and passing those lessons on to future generations. That is carrying the fire.


Phillip Welshans is currently serving as the Junior Warden of Palestine Lodge #189 in Catonsville, MD under the Grand Lodge of Maryland A.F. & A.M., and is Senior Warden-elect for the 2023 term. I’m currently going through the process of exemplifying the first three degrees of Masonry in preparation for going into the East in 2024. I am also a member of the Maryland Masonic Lodge of Research #239, and a member of the Hiram Guild of the Maryland Masonic Academy. As a member of the Scottish Right in the Valley of Baltimore, he has completed the Master Craftsman programs and is a member of the Scottish Rite Research Society.

In addition to his officer’s duties, he has been a contributor to the Free State Freemason, the magazine of the Grand Lodge of Maryland. His interests are primarily in Masonic education, particularly the history of the Craft, esoteric topics, and the exploration of the philosophy of Masonry.

From The Archives: The 50 Year Member: Part Fourteen - Whisper Good Council

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Bill Hosler, PM

“I can't believe I said yes to this.” Pudge punched his pillow as he grumbled, “This ground is as hard as a rock!” The old man replied as his voice could be heard in the darkness, “Well, I'm sure there are plenty of rocks in the ground you are laying on.” Pudge not seeing the humor in the 50-year member's remark and began to mutter, “I could be home right now playing a video game, eating pizza, and falling asleep in my nice comfy bed. Why in the world did the Master think it would be a great idea for the members of the lodge to all go camping together?” He continued muttering as he abused the pillow underneath his head.

As the sun was setting, the crickets could be heard outside the tent that the two men were sharing. The campground sounds were deadening as the men of the lodge were slowly settling into their tents; while the sun was in the west at the close of the day.

“I'm guessing you aren't the “Outdoorsy type"", the old man whispered with a smile that could not be seen in the darkness.  “Nope.” Pudge grunted,  “I just don't see the sense in spending a fortune on equipment so you can live like a homeless person.” The old man chuckled, “I never thought of it that way. I just think the Master thought it would be a way for the Brethren to bond and discover ideas that can better the lodge.”  Pudge turned over in his sleeping bag searching for that elusive comfortable position. “I know.  I don't mean to be this grumpy. I just hate the idea of spending the entire weekend with THAT guy.”

“That guy?” The 50-year member uttered with a question in his voice. “Which, THAT guy?” Pudge hesitated to answer, “Benny Hart.” I can't stand THAT guy. He is a blowhard. All he does is brag about all the stuff he owns and the women he runs around with, and he is constantly abusing alcohol. I suspect there are other things he does that we don't know about that I'm sure would make us look bad.  I don't know if I can keep my mouth shut around him for an entire weekend.”

“I can see that. You can't like everyone.” The old man expressed, “Let me ask you this, what have you done to try to help him?” Pudge sat up in his sleeping bag, “Help him! Why in the world would I try to help that blowhard?” “Because he is your Brother.”, the 50-year member replied.  “Have you tried talking to him about his failings? Put your arm around his shoulder and try to whisper good counsel in his ear? It's easy to hate someone, but the hardest part is holding out your hand to help a Brother see the error of his ways.”

Pudge’s voice began to rise, “There is no talking to that guy! We would have been better off if we never let him in!” The old man said “Maybe, but he's in and now we have to deal with him. We each had an opportunity, you included, to prevent it.  If he is as bad as you say he is then each of us could have investigated his background.  Sitting in on his interview or talking to him on a casual basis could have raised a flag. Unless of course, he was purposely hiding his background and personality. We should have seen his character and prevented his membership.”

Pudge quietly sat in the darkness. “You are right. I had a feeling about him when I interviewed him. I never mentioned it to anyone.” The 50-year member seemed surprised, “You did? And you didn't say anything? If nothing more you could have thrown a black ball during his vote.” “I could have” Pudge muttered. I thought that maybe it was just me. I also know the lodge needs additional members so I decided to say nothing. I had hoped I was wrong and he would turn out all right.”

“That is one of the big problems Masonry has today.”, the old man exclaimed. "We hold our noses and vote in people because we need the members. Sadly we have been so short-sided focusing on the membership numbers that we don't think about the man we are bringing in. No one ever stops to think if we were more selective and truly guarding the west gate then the men we bring in might stay around.” Pudge was still inside his sleeping bag. His voice whispered through the darkness, “I'm afraid if the west gate would have been well guarded when I tried to enter it, I probably wouldn't be here today.” The old man seemed confused by Pudge's statement. “Why on earth would you think that?” A pause in the conversation seemed like an eternity before Pudge responded. “Because they probably wouldn't have let me in. I didn't look like the typical Mason when I joined. My tattoos, hair, and even my dress screamed out that I was not Masonic material.”

The old man laughed, “Buddy I will admit I had my concerns when I first saw you. But I got to know you. I learned to look past your physical appearance. I know you have heard a million times it’s the inward not the outward. There is a lot of truth to that. We need to look at the inward by doing a good candidate investigation. Not just talking to the man and his family.  We should talk to the people the man interacts with in his daily life. Find out what kind of man he is.”

The old man continued, “Many men want to join the Fraternity.  Many want to become better men or find a deeper meaning in life. Sadly, there are those men who join that think by having a square and compass on their lapel will help them in business or even allow them to network with prospective clients. Worse yet, it will give them the appearance of respectability.  We need to weed those men out from the men who wish to become Masons to better themselves.”

“If we attract just numbers then that is exactly what we will get. Just numbers.  We will have men who join and soon realize that being a member does not help them with their mercenary motives.  They will either just quit coming, demit or allow themselves to become suspended for nonpayment of dues.   Then we are in no better place than where we started.”

“But, if we allow only those men of quality, the ones who wish to become better men through service to themselves and their worthy Brothers, we will once again become a great fraternity.  Those men will thrive and will continue to come to the lodge and be a positive influence on all those who surround them.  Everyone will benefit from each other’s company.”

Pudge lay in silence as the old man spoke.  “I know you are right.  I would rather be surrounded by a small group of great men instead of a group of 100 men like that Benny.” “Most people would Pudge", the old man replied.  "But since he is already in, we must do our job. One of the things a great man can do is to have the courage to face things he doesn't want to and tackle those tasks that are either unpleasant or seem to be impossible.  I think one of those tasks for you is to try and talk to Benny.  Whisper good counsel in his ear and hopefully, your influence will have a positive effect on him.  If it doesn't help, then at least you will have a clear conscience and you know you tried to help him see the error of his ways.” 

Pudge turned over in his sleeping bag once again.  Groaning as he turned.  “OK I'll start in the morning, that is if I can ever find a comfortable position to fall asleep.”

The old man laughed.  “You will son.  Soon you will fall asleep and then wake up as the sun rises in the east to open and govern the day with the smell of bacon cooking over a campfire.  If that doesn't start your day off right I don't know what will.  I'll even make sure there is a pot of coffee brewing on the fire just for you.” Pudge giggled, “Plain coffee isn't my favorite but I guess it will have to do.  Maybe next year I can talk the Master into camping outside a coffee shop.  That way I can wake up to the smell of a latte in the morning.”

Both men chuckled to themselves as they each fell fast asleep under the stars to the sound of crickets in the distance.


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.