Building on Symbolism: The Cornerstone

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
WB Christian Garrett, 32°, K.T.

The cornerstone has long been considered to be an essential element of many  buildings, a tradition that has long survived throughout many ages and cultures. While  we as Masons are familiar with our symbolic teachings surrounding the cornerstone,  which I will touch on later, I thought it might be helpful to explore some examples of the  use of cornerstones in history.  

Ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian cultures would lay their foundation stones  in a tradition similar to that of a “ground-breaking” ceremony as a “foundation ritual.”  The purpose of which was to call upon the favor of their Gods to protect their  structures from destruction by the elements or any other malevolent force. During  these “foundation rituals” stones would be hollowed out and filled with vessels  containing an array of different symbolic items pertaining to the intended use of the  building and the Deity it was dedicated too. These stones were then placed in different  corners of the buildings, at the entrance of the structure, or in some instances at a  different point of importance depending on the type of structure being built. 

In the customs and traditions of Freemasonry we see many examples of both  the operative and symbolic uses of the cornerstone. One of our few ceremonies that  are open to public is that of the laying of the cornerstone, of which one of the earliest  mentions dates back to the entry in Mist’s Weekly Journal of May 26th, 1722. It stated  “The first stone of the foundation at the same corner above ground being twelve feet  above the other, was laid with a great deal of ceremony by the society of Freemasons,  who on that occasion, were very generous to the workmen.” 

The cornerstone is also a deeply meaningful symbol within Masonic philosophy.  The newly initiated Entered Apprentice is placed in the northeast corner of the lodge.  This in itself has several meanings. Newly made Masons are the foundation of our  entire Craft, for without new members to carry our traditions forward into the future, our  work dies with us. The laborer of today is the overseer of tomorrow. Thus, we are to  take pride in the laying of these new Masons as cornerstones of our lodges, and to  guide their placement within the craft with studious attention and care.

This placement is also a symbolic halfway point between the darkness of the  North and the light of the East. This first step of the initiate marks a transition from  darkness and error, to that of light and truth. The charge he receives reiterates this by  stating how he should live, walk, and act in the outer world. In this moment, he is a  neophyte that is receiving its first nurturing rays that will perpetuate his growth on his  Masonic journey towards light. 

We all as Masons, from the youngest Entered Apprentice to the Worshipful  Master of the lodge, are ever erecting our spiritual temples. We labour in this daily,  brick by brick, through our charitable acts, selfless deeds, caring spirits, and truthful  dealings with one another. May the cornerstone of our spiritual temples be steadfast  and built upon the principles of integrity, stability, and longevity.


Christian Garrett is the current Worshipful Master of Cottage Grove Masonic Lodge #51in Cottage Grove, Oregon.  He is also an affiliate member of Eugene Lodge #11 and McKenzie River Lodge #195 in Eugene, Oregon. A 32° member of the Eugene Valley of the Scottish Rite, Scribe of Cottage Grove Royal Arch Chapter #41, Secretary for Hiram Council #7 and Ivanhoe Commandery #2, Senior Warden of Goose and Gridiron Allied Masonic Degrees, and Deputy Director of Units for Al Kader Shriners.

From the Archives: The 50 Year Member - Talkin' Bout My Obligations

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bill Hosler, PM

Pudge was sitting comfortably in one of the newly restored leather wingback chairs in a quiet corner of the Temple’s Social room. Pudge seems quite happy while looking at a pad of drawings with a group of the lodge’s younger Brethren. The group was talking and laughing with cigars in their hands as the 50 Year member walked into the room. A smile came across the old man’s face as the sound of young men laughing took him to an earlier time on a cloud of cigar smoke. “It’s just like old times.", the old man thought to himself.

As the 50 Year member approached the men, he could begin to hear some of their conversations. “I like that one.” Said one young man “Have you seen the Superman I have on my calf with the Square and Compass on his chest in place of the letter "S"? I finally got the coloring finished on it.” The 50-year member laughed and said, “It must be hard coloring something on your calf. I hope you stayed within the lines.” the old man said with a laugh in his voice. The group checked. “Pudge looked up and saw the 50-year member. “Hi,John! Hey, do you have any tattoos?” The old man smiled. “Nah, back in my day the only guys who got tattoos were either servicemen, while they were away from home or prisoners who got them while they were in prison. Neither of which I would have been, my mother would have killed me.” The crowd laughed as the old man slipped quietly into a leather chair. The group continued to discuss various kinds of tattoos and showing each other pictures of Masonic tattoos that they found on Google while doing their research on the topic.

Hearing the laughter while walking down the hallway on the way to the lodge room, Past Master Herb Johnson ventured into the Social room and began to listen silently to the young men’s conversation. Herb piped in after he heard the 50-year member's response to the younger guys. “No John wouldn’t have a Masonic tattoo. John remembers the obligations that he took!” Herb said in a gruff voice.

The young men sat silent for a second and looked at each other. They all seemed confused. One young man said hesitantly in a quiet voice “It’s unMasonic to get a tattoo?" Herb stood up and arched his back and said in the know-it-all authoritarian voice, “It is if you get a Masonic tattoo!” Herb said, matter-of-factly. “You kids have already forgotten, "I will not print, paint…” Each with an uneasy feeling, the entire group of men began to steal glances at each other, worried and questioning if they were all going to be in a great deal of trouble. Herb continued “Yep. If you got one of those tattoos, the lodge might have to file charges on you for expulsion.” The group started talking to each other in quiet scared voices.

The 50-year member began to laugh so hard he began to shake in glee, as he slapped his knee. The old man eventually gained his composure again as he wiped the tears of laughter from his eyes, “John this is no laughing matter. This is serious business!” Herb said. The 50-year member began laughing again and said to Herb through his laughter, in a mocking tone, “Oh yes it is Herb. You have them quaking in their boots at the thought of a Masonic trial. I hope you are as equally prepared as these young men will be when the un-Masonic charges are filed against you.” The old man was laughing so hard he could barely stand up from his chair.

Herbert, who began to sputter while his face reddened with anger looked at the old man and said in a high nasal tone, "File charges against me!? Why I never! I have been a member of this lodge for almost as long as you have! I have never done anything that can be considered un-Masonic in my entire adult life! I served this lodge as Master four times! I served on several Grand Lodge committees-- I have been a model…” The 50-year member interrupted Herb’s tirade “Oh Herb, I know! That’s why it will be a sad day when I walk into the lodge room and see the Tyler using his sword to keep you from gaining admittance. It will be a downright shame.” Sweat began to drip down Herb's forehead as his fists were balled up in anger. “So what is the evidence against me that you are going to use?” Herb said in a quiet voice, trying to calm his anger.

The 50-year member said, "Basically the same evidence you are planning on using against these “kids”, as you call them. Violating their obligations to keep secrets. Herb, you know as well as I do that the only real secrets of this Fraternity are its words and grips, and you know as well as I do you can pick up a hundred books or get on the internet and find those. These young men aren’t going to tattoo those words on their bodies. That’s stupid. If you ever bothered to talk to these young men before acting all high and mighty, you'd discover they are going to tattoo Masonic symbols like the square and compass, symbols from the York Rite or the Scottish Rite. Just like the ones you have on the back of your car and if I am honest, I've seen on the mailbox at your house, and I know we as a lodge have contributed to your guilt by giving you plaques and certificates through the years with those incriminating symbols on them. So I think if these young men are guilty of a Masonic crime then sadly Brother, you are guilty, nay, more guilty than the rest, because you have been in the Craft long enough to know better.

The 50-year member got quiet. The sound of the silence in the room was deafening. The old man said, in a quieter, more calm voice “I’m sorry if you think I'm rough on you Herb, but dang it! I feel like you have it coming. You might know our ritual front to back, but you haven’t bothered to learn the meaning of one single word in which you've memorized. But that doesn’t stop you from spouting off pieces of ritual, trying to act like an expert on the matter when you haven’t the slightest clue what you are talking about."

The old man continues “Sadly you aren’t the only one with this particular notion. Think back to last month when the lodge was discussing men, for goodness sake, policemen, carrying their legally owned pistols to a lodge meeting. Sadly, I knew as soon as the discussion began, some poor, uneducated Brother would stand up and utter the phrase “I will carry nothing offensive or defensive into the lodge room with me.” And I was surely not disappointed, because it didn’t take long for the phrase to be uttered. Do you know what gets me? I bet that poor ignorant Brother and every man who grunted his agreement to that phrase was nodding his head while he was carrying a pocket knife in his pants pocket. Should we have the Tyler frisk each brother before he enters the room? Or better yet make them pass through a metal detector to ensure he isn’t carrying anything metallic into the lodge? If we are going to misquote ritual, we might as well go all the way with this silliness."

“Brother we both know that line is about a candidate, not for a Master Mason attending a stated meeting. It’s just one of my pet peeves that we either use pieces of our ritual wrong, or worse yet, we purposely twist a bit of the ritual, out of context in order to further our argument or to prove a point to someone who is as equally ignorant into the meaning of those words we've all memorized, but we can’t call them on it because it will cause “Disharmony” within the lodge.”

The 50-year member paused for a moment as Herb’s head began to lower “Brother all I am saying is we are either going to hold all members to the same standards, or we will continue to see this Fraternity further erode. The days of saying one thing but meaning another have to stop before we drive off every new member. If we are going to make good men better, we need to do it through education and teaching actual Masonic education, not through twisted, bastardized ritual which has lost it meaning through the years because we have misapplied it." The old man smiled. “OK, I am now going to step down from my soap box and get ready for the lodge meeting. Herb go in and gets us some good seats, will you?”

Herb slowly backed away. “Honest John. I think I am going to head home. I don’t feel so good right now. I think I am going to take one of my Nitro pills and head for the house.” One of the younger men of the group stepped out of the crowd and said to Herb. “Brother, my name is Tim. I am a paramedic by trade. Why don’t you sit down here and let me examine you? You look a little flushed. If you are feeling that bad, I don’t want you traveling home by yourself." He continued,  "After I look you over if you still don’t feel well, I’ll take you home, or if need be to the Emergency Room. You shouldn’t be left on your own if you feel that bad.” Herb looked up at Tim and said in a weak voice. You are going to help me even after how bad I was talking about you kids? Are you sure?” Tim just smiled, took Herb and sat him in one of the wingback chairs, and said, “Of course! I may not know all the ritual as well as some of the guys here, but one part I do know and remember quite well is “I will help, aid and assist.” It’s not only my obligation, but I live it every day of my life." Tim took Herb's hand, “Now just be still, let me have a look at you.” He looked at the crowd and said as he threw his car keys in the air, “Hey Pudge go to my trunk and get my paramedic bag out of the trunk please.” Tim then looked back to Herb and started his usual questions “So tell me Brother are you having any pains? Nausea?” …


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.

Digital Immortality

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Ken JP Stuczynski
File:Code on computer monitor (Unsplash).jpg
We are told that once you post something online, it's there forever. That's not always true, but an average post or comment in a public forum may be visible long after the user is gone. Our grandkids will know if we were kind or hateful, open-minded or bigoted. But why should we be more concerned on the Internet than in everyday, non-virtual life?

Masons in ages past put their marks upon their work, a symbol or initial to tie the object to themselves. It wasn't just quality control, but credit and reputation. Masters -- in stone, art, literature -- are known for their achievements. Even when works were not signed, their legacy was so notable that their name was preserved. Their masterpieces embodied them, and through them were immortalized.

What remains after our earthly existence? Generations will retell stories about us. High school trophy cases are graced with our photos. Our names are on donor plaques and memorial bricks. And if we do something wrong or unjust, our infamy will be whispered among associates and neighbors for decades. Maybe none of these are forever, but we as Masons believe our Charity (Love) is eternal.

Few will have a street named after them or their own Wikipedia entry. But everything we do has the potential to survive our mortality, even if our name is lost. The fruits of our hands, words, and other choices will live on. We may have affected the future of a company, a Lodge, a community, and society. No matter how small our contribution, the needle will move in part because of each of us. Even our absence of action is part of the equation. An artist's signature isn't always present or discernable, but it still says something about an author -- the image or footprint of a human being as if set in stone for all time.

What about being someone of your word? Integrity is known, not for intentions, platitudes, or even oaths, but as a record of our actions. Will we become a perpetual example to aspire to? Will we hope others can fill our shoes? Or will people hope someone "better" moves into our stations and places once we "check out"? Will our fate be a warning to others of what not to do or what to be like?

We worry about social media as if it's an invasion of privacy. But it is voluntary -- and painfully honest. It is perhaps today's biggest self-exposure and broadcast of one's character. All can know a tree by its fruit, even if the bushel is in the metaverse. But it's not about technology. Some people don't seem to leave a mark at all on our future, which is the reward of apathy and inaction. But most of us will, for better or worse, without even logging in.

We work against the backdrop of eternity. If we accept that everything we do and say may be forever recorded, our everyday work will be mindful, good, true, and square.
Bro. Ken JP Stuczynski is a member of West Seneca Lodge No.1111 and recently served as Master of Ken-Ton Lodge No.1186. As webmaster for NYMasons.Org he is on the Communications and Technology Committees for the Grand Lodge of the State of New York. He is also a Royal Arch Mason and 32nd Degree Scottish Rite Mason, serving his second term as Sovereign Prince of Palmoni Council in the Valley of Buffalo, NMJ. He also coordinates a Downtown Square Club monthly lunch in Buffalo, NY. He and his wife served as Patron and Matron of Pond Chapter No.853 Order of the Eastern Star and considered himself a “Masonic Feminist”.

“The Grasshopper Speech”: The Masonic Lessons of Ecclesiastes 12

by Midnight Freemason Regular Contributor
Phillip Welshans

There are many parts of our Masonic ritual that are taken from the Holy Bible, either via direct quotation or through paraphrasing. One of favorites is what is sometimes referred to as “the Grasshopper Speech” in the Master Mason degree.1 It is often given by the Junior Warden at the beginning of the second half of that degree, and is a direct quotation from the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament. To me, it is one of the most powerful excerpts from Scripture in our ritual because of its teachings as well as because of the beauty of its prose. It has particular resonance for us as Freemasons as we are reminded of our mortality, but also called upon to seize our present opportunity to live virtuous and upright lives while we still can.

The verses from the King James Bible are my personal favorite, although the words sing in just about any version of the Bible you prefer. I’ve reprinted the KJV words below:

Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not nor the years draw nigh when thou shalt say, “I have no pleasure in them”;

While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain:

In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened,

And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of music shall be brought low;

Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail; because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets:

Or ever the silver cord ever be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern.

Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.2

The book of Ecclesiastes is a collection of wisdom teachings and poems of “The Preacher,” who many believe to be King Solomon. The first eleven chapters talk of man’s petty foibles, the futility of grudges or jealousy, and so on, which the Preacher deems ephemeral, writing, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” Interspersed with these warnings are pieces of wisdom meant to guide men towards a virtuous life living in “the fear of the Lord.”

The Grasshopper Speech begins the twelfth and final chapter and serves as a capstone to the teachings that have come before it. It warns us not to waste time in our youth and manhood ignoring these teachings. Time waits for no man, and indeed the majority of the speech is an allusion to the aging of the human body. The “grinders” are teeth, the “windows be darkened” refers to our failing eyesight; the blossoming almond tree being our whitening hair, and the silver cord and golden bowl possibly alluding to our bowing posture and flagging intellect. By the time we see fit to live by the teachings laid out earlier, it may be too late, this poem tells us. We will have wasted the best years of our limited lives on meaningless squabbles (vanities) and have no time or energy or ability left for virtue and righteousness (when “desire shall fail”). It is at once a depressing and inspiring piece of scriptural prose.

This speech, in conjunction with the three Blue Lodge degree obligations, made up the bulk of my initial memorization work as Junior Warden in 2022. I loved working on the speech, especially given the combination of speaking the words while also moving about the lodge with the candidate. It demanded mastery of the verbiage in order to time the floorwork properly. Aside from the Middle Chamber lecture, this is one of the few pieces of ritual outside the East that demands this delicate balance.

Moreover, this moment is very important for the candidate, even if he may not realize it at the time. It is a memento mori, a reminder that he is mortal; that he, like every brother who has come before him and will come after him, will grow old and eventually “return to the earth as it was,” his spirit returning unto God who gave it. And that because this is true and unavoidable, he should listen to the words being spoken and the lessons imparted in our Masonic rituals and use them to live a virtuous life. As Marcus Aurelius, the Roman emperor and author of the Stoic work Meditations wrote several centuries later: [We are]“not to live as if you had endless years ahead of you. Death overshadows you. While you’re alive and able – be good.”3 Or as Jacob Marley, the dead partner of Ebenezer Scrooge tells him in Charles Dickens’ 19th century classic, A Christmas Carol, “No space of regret can make amends for one life’s opportunity misused!”4

We can see then how the context of the verses within the wider book helps give this moving part of the ritual even more definition for the candidate. In his preceding degrees, the concepts of death and immortality and virtue have been described to him, but delivered at somewhat of a distance via the Master’s Lectures. But now death is personalized and soon to arrive in person, so to speak. Therefore, I felt that to convey the importance of these words, as well as the beauty, required a better understanding of them and the book of Scripture from which they were drawn. Because ultimately the Grasshopper Speech, and Ecclesiastes as a whole, is about the flaws of humans, but also about our propensity to gain wisdom through faith in God, thereby having hope for immortality through the virtuous practice of charity while still living “under the sun.”

1 Obviously, this applies to my jurisdiction under the Grand Lodge of Maryland. Your jurisdictional mileage may vary.
2  Eccles. 12: 1-7. 
3 Aurelius, Marcus, Meditations, trans. Gregory Hays (New York: Modern Library, 2003), p.41 
4 Dickens, Charles, A Christmas Carol: The Original Manuscript Edition (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2017), p.31 
Phillip Welshans is Senior Warden of Palestine Lodge #189 in Catonsville, MD under the Grand Lodge of Maryland A.F. & A.M. He is also a member of the Maryland Masonic Lodge of Research #239, and the Hiram Guild of the Maryland Masonic Academy. As a member of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, S.J. in the Valley of Baltimore, he has completed the Master Craftsman programs and is a member of the Scottish Rite Research Society. His interests are primarily in Masonic education, particularly the history of the Craft, esotericism, and the philosophy of Masonry.

From the Archives: The 50 Year Member - Pumpkin Spiced Freemasonry

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bill Hosler, PM

The smell of burning leaves filled the air carried by the chilly winds of autumn as the 50-year member shut the door of his car and locked it. He smiled to himself as he walked through the temple’s parking lot, reflecting on how many nights in the fall of the year he took the very same walk through this parking lot after a three-month vacation from attending lodge.

The creaking front door of the lodge building opened with a welcomed feeling of warmth emitting from the building's heating system. The smell of supper filled the air.

Pudge was stirring a pot of chili in the kitchen for the evening meal. “Good evening John,” Pudge said with a smile on his face. “It’s good to see you after a summer of being dark. I missed being at the lodge.” The old man smiled, “Yep! It’s that time of year again for pumpkin spiced Masonry.” Pudge laughed hard. “Pumpkin Spiced Masonry! Did we get bought by Starbucks? I swear everything is pumpkin spiced these days!”

The old man removed his coat and hat and placed them in the cloakroom. “I’m serious. It's time for pumpkin spiced Masonry. If you think about it, there are parallels between the two.” The 50-year member continued “Think about it, Pudge. After a long, hot summer your mind starts to think about cooler days and falling leaves, football on Saturdays. You know,  sweater weather. The days are getting shorter and the long nights remind us that winter is getting closer, which brings the holiday season and the annual lodge elections and holiday party. So when you hear this coffee company or that cookie company or whatever a particular company sells start advertising their spiced pumpkin goodies, Masonry is much the same way.”

The 50-year member explained: “I know the seasons are beginning to change when I look at my calendar, and I see that the lodge’s September meeting is coming up. Both are a sure sign of fall and will start the march toward the holiday season.”

Pudge laughed so hard he almost dropped the ladle he was holding. “I think you may have a point, John. I know I’m glad we are back in session again. I missed Masonry during those three months.”

“I miss seeing the gang during those months, but I still have Masonry in my heart during the break, even if I am not in the lodge.” The old man said, “To me, the learning doesn’t stop just because the lodge room is in darkness.” He continued, “If we go to the beach I take a book with me about Masonic history or symbolism instead of a murder mystery novel, or if I am hiking in the mountains, it is the perfect time for me to learn or relearn a piece of ritual. If I am really in need to spread Masonic cement, I can always attend a meeting at the Scottish Rite or go to the Shrine and talk with the Nobles who are a fixture there. You can even visit some of the widows of the lodge and see if they need any help, chances are they could use something even if it is just someone to talk to them. Don’t confuse Masonry with just attending a stated meeting. Masonry never stops no matter what time of year it is or even the day of the week. Whether we meet or not, it never hurts to rest from your labors now and then. Think about it Pudge, if that Craftsman didn’t stop and rest and refresh himself he would never have found that sprig of acacia. So, I welcomed the rest; I can tell you the officers of the lodge welcome it. I feel like I’ve rested and ready to restart my work in the quarry.”

Pudge stood up straight after he laid spoon on the counter. “I have to admit I did enjoy my time off. I spent part of my time of learning the stair lecture. I think I have it nearly complete. Maybe soon I will have the part down well enough I can conduct a candidate. You know, I’ve heard some lodges don’t take a break for the summer. Maybe if I start getting lodge sick next year I can always visit another lodge that doesn’t go dark. But it does feel good to be back. I am also excited to start our Saturday football parties in the temple's social room again, and I am hungry. Join me in some chili and cornbread? I made it my special recipe.” “You bet,” the old man said.  "I brought hot peppers and antacid with me tonight. The peppers to make the chili spicy an antacid to cure the effects of the peppers later!” Both men laughed. “I can run out and get you a pumpkin spiced coffee to go with that chili too, if you like.” The old man snickered “I think your chili, and the fall stated meeting is all the autumn I can handle at one moment.” Both men laughed as the men took their places in line for dinner.


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

The Theater of Cruelty of the Hiramic Drama, Part I

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Patrick Dey

“I employ the word ‘cruelty’ in the sense of an appetite for life, a cosmic rigor and implacable necessity, in the gnostic sense of a living whirlwind that devours the darkness.”

—Antonin Artaud, The Theater and Its Double

In my previous essay on this blog, I admonished against interpreting the Third Degree, following the polemical essay by Susan Sontag, “Against Interpretation.” Sontag was influenced by the French writer, actor, playwright, polemicist, and completely insane Antonin Artaud, who advocated for the experience of art over the interpretation of the content of the art itself. Sontag would publish a massive selection of writings by Artaud with what is by far one of the best introductions to Artaud I have ever read — one so good that it would inspire Jane Goodall (yes, that Jane Goodall) to write a large work on Artaud and Gnosticism.

For all that Artaud was absolutely insane — and he was seriously mentally ill and addicted to opium — he was brilliant nonetheless. In 1959 he would publish The Theater and Its Double. In this work he introduces a radical form of conducting theater arts: the Theater of Cruelty.

When Artaud advocates his idea of the Theater of Cruelty, he is not advocating for blood and gore, though certainly those elements may be used. When he says “cruelty” he means a theater that is “difficult and cruel.” In other words, the Theater of Life — life, which is difficult and cruel. It is meant to shock and awaken us to the truths of life, but also to put us in a sort of trance, and to let the theater be the crucible through which we transcend and transmute. The need for the theater to be a means of awakening our spirits is very much in line with the ideologies of George I. Gurdjieff, who advocated that most people spend their lives in a state of “waking sleep,” and required a spiritual awakening of their consciousness to realize their full potential. Artaud felt the only means to truly awaken a person was by shocking them, but not like “shock art,” which only serves to deliberately disturb and offend. No, Artaud advocates for shocking people awake by demonstrating the difficulties and cruelties of life.

The means to do so are multifaceted and multifarious. One instance, Artaud advocates that the Theater of Cruelty should be executed in the round: the abolition of all walls, especially the fourth wall, eliminate the distinction between the stage and the audience, let the world become the theater and allow the drama to unfold around the audience. In so many ways, this is exactly how the Hiramic Drama is conducted: in the round. The candidate begins as an active participant, an actual cast member, and then becomes an auditory spectator — or specter — as the drama unfolds all around him. At this time, the mise en scène transforms, becoming one that is auditory rather than visual. In The Theater and Its Double, the term mise en scène is untranslated, because it is difficult to translate, but is basically the props, the stage scenery, &c. In the Hiramic Drama, the mise en scène is almost totally auditory, and a bit tactile. The clanking of the rubbish of the Temple. The shoveling and chimes as something clandestine is conducted in the night. The pitter-patter of feet as characters move around. The sound of voices calling around the room. The sonorous chants of the funeral procession. These and more set the stage for the candidate in a literal audi-torium, heightening the first of the five senses: hearing.

Then there is the shock, the real cruelty: coercion, betrayal, violence, death, rot, and the most pessimistic ending in all of Masonry: no hope (“hope is lost in fruition”). The candidate, who up to this point in his Masonic journey has put absolute trust in his brothers, and then they betray him. He acts as a character in his own drama, but also as a prop: a corpse. Death, then he listens to the manhunt, trial, and execution of his betrayers, and all the while he is rotting in his lonely grave. A transformation occurs here for the candidate. Who can deny that? Then his rotten body is pulled out of his grave and given a proper burial.

I have said it before and I will say it again: of all the degrees in Masonry, the Master Mason degree is the most powerful, and by a long shot. All the other so-called “higher” degrees, go through mere pageantry meant to rival the Hiramic Drama, and add in some shocking moments such as threats of imprisonment and death, but the candidate is never in any immediate danger, and he knows it. There is a moment in the Third Degree that you actually feel endangered, that you may actually get hurt. In the “higher” degrees, all is well, and after much pomp and circumstance, the candidate is lauded, applauded, given great honors, and made a member of that degree. Yay… It is all very contrived and rather voyeuristic. The candidate is not a cast member; he is only ever a prop, a weak substance of the mise en scène of the degree; a peeping tom of a story that happens before him, but he is not really a part of. Don’t get me started on the Scottish Rite classes or York Rite festival classes.

The candidate for the Master Mason degree is absolutely a character, an essential cast member. Yes, the drama unfolds around him, but everything happens with him, to him, and for him, and emphatically so. And what is his reward? To be betrayed, murdered, left to rot, grieved for, then exhumed. Oh, and as a consequence he is now a Master Mason. The other degrees put far too much emphasis on honoring the candidate as a member of that degree, whereas the Master Mason Degree emphasizes the drama and the cruelties of life, and becoming a member of that degree is a byline.

If all this is to be realized and understood, we may fully realize the value of Artaud’s ideologies to recover the majesty of this drama.

I have only ever met one other Mason who was familiar with Artaud and the Theater of Cruelty, and he believed the Hiramic Drama was already a full embodiment of the Theater of Cruelty, whereas I would argue the Hiramic Drama has the potential to fulfill Artaud’s vision, but not quite there. That is, if one can even fully realize Artaud’s ambitions, because much of his theatrical philosophy and rhetoric is impossible. And it is the impossible, the impossible in the sense as Georges Bataille conceptualizes it in The Impossible: a journey toward and ever-receding object, like the quest for the Grail, in which the experience of truth is obtained in the failing of the quest.

In a way, this is exactly what the Hiramic Drama is: an enactment of the impossible. Hiram cannot escape. He cannot preserve his life. Nor can the secrets of a Master Mason be extorted from him. On both ends of the exchange, all fail and all die, yet there is an experience of truth, a revelation in the grave in that failure. It is shocking. It is cruel. Such is life. As much as the symbols of the Master Mason Degree focus on death, such are more so revelations of life.

If the cast of the Degree did their job right, no candidate should be asleep, literally and metaphorically. Sadly, I have seen candidates actually fall asleep, and in Part II, we will start to examine some issues I think exist in how the Hiramic Drama is usually conducted and how they might be remedied by taking cues from Artaud’s Theater of Cruelty.



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, and serves as the Secretary-Recorder of all three. He currently serves as the Exponent (Suffragan) of Colorado College, SRICF of which he is VIII Grade (Magister), and is a member of Gofannin Council No. 315 AMD and Kincora Council No. 8 Knight Masons. He is a facilitator for the Masonic Legacy Society, 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.

Reflections on the Entered Apprentice Degree

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Erik M. Geehern

On a bitterly cold evening in early March of 2019, I sat alone in a room adjacent to the Lodge room, prepared as an Entered Apprentice, nervously awaiting the conferral of my first degree of Freemasonry.

We had shared dinner prior, and all the men I had come to respect and enjoy the company of assured me this was going to be a great night. There was no hazing, no puerile goat jokes, nothing but a jovial but very serious sense that tonight was important. This night was about me. I was the only candidate this evening, but one Brother who I had grown particularly close to over the past six or seven months had just gone through the same experience in November, and now he was able to take part in my initiation.

I had purposely avoided the temptation to search out what this evening would entail or what I could expect. I have no Masonic family members or friends, and so I was truly going into this experience blind, and I am happy I did. I sat shivering in this cold corner room, anxiously listening to the mumbled voices through the wall, trying to interpret what was being said, but between the thick old wall and the chattering of my teeth, I couldn’t make it out.

Then, three soon-to-be Brothers came in, smiled at me, and asked if I was ready. What followed was a transformative experience that has had a profound impact on my life. This was the beginning of a lifelong journey of self-discovery and personal growth. In the two hours or so that followed I experienced a spiritual experience that deepened my connection to Deity, moments of introspection that encouraged me to reflect on my values and beliefs, and something I didn’t even know I needed at the time, a sense of true Brotherly love with a group of like-minded men.

The designers of this shared initiatic experience created a transformative experience that has had a profound impact on every new Mason. It creates a sense of Brotherhood, promotes self-improvement and personal growth, and leaves a lasting impression on the heart and mind.

I have seen some great degree work… I have also seen some not-so-great degree work. I was fortunate in that my initiation was pretty close to perfect, at least in my memory. I can distinctly remember so many key parts that caused me to really think about what was being said and what was going on around me.

Now, just four years since that august event, I am sitting in the East for the conferral of the Entered Apprentice degree on two fantastic men. These candidates have spent months getting to know the Brothers of our Lodge, they have volunteered at food drives, joined us for meals, and proven themselves to be upright men worthy of becoming Masons.

Each rehearsal I am picking up details and insights that previously have not occurred to me. I have been privileged to see many degrees, in many different Lodges, and they are all different. The words are the same, by and large, but the emphasis, cadence, and inflection can be so different as to almost make the meaning of the words change.

For those Brothers reading, think about the demand that was made at one point in your first degree. Was the person who asked shaming you for not being able to satisfy his request? Were you confused by this as they had to know you couldn’t do what was asked? Or was this moment somber, teaching you the real moral of the request and how in the future you could satisfy this for another?

Was your apron presented in a frenzied recitation of a long bit of ritual that felt like you were drinking from a firehose, or was it done at a speed that allowed you to hear each word, with appropriate pauses to give you time to process the honor and privilege it is to be a part of this ancient and honorable fraternity?

We still have a lot of practicing to do for our upcoming degree to ensure we get everything right, or at least as close to perfect as we are able. While the weight of leading this degree is certainly heavy on my shoulders, I am thrilled to be given the opportunity to bring men to Masonic Light in a way that I know will impact their lives forevermore. I can only hope this momentous occasion will have as great an impact on their life as my initiation had on mine.


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.

From the Archives: The 50 Year Member - Just an Old Photo On the Wall

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Bill Hosler 

“He needs to rest, so please make sure your visit is brief,” the nurse told the 50 Year member as he and Pudge were about to enter the hospital room. “Yes ma’am, we won’t stay long.” The nurse stopped and hesitated for a moment:“You are family members of his, aren’t you?” The old man smiled. “Yes ma’am, he is my brother.” She smiled, “I’m so glad. The poor man has been in here so long and has never had a visitor. You can see the loneliness in his eyes.”

The 50 Year member peeked into the sterile hospital room. He could see Martin Baker lying quietly in a hospital bed. The only sounds that broke the silence in the man's darkened room were that of the machines providing the medicines keeping him alive, beeping as the life-giving drugs coursed through his veins.

Martin was a long-time member of the 50 year member's lodge. The old man felt like he knew Martin his entire life. Which, for the most part was correct. Martin and the old man’s father served together in the same unit during World War II and after the war they continued their friendship for decades.

The two men and their wives socialized together, some nights playing bridge at each other’s houses. And both family’s kids spent summers at each others homes playing baseball and other games. Some of the 50 years members earliest and favorite childhood memories are spending time at the lodge building with Martin and his dad while they served as officers. The fondest memory of Martin was when he served as the Senior Deacon conducting him through his Master Mason degree while the old man’s dad sat in the east and obligated him.

The shuffling of feet into the quiet hospital room seem to wake Martin up. A smile came across his face as his eyes tried to focus in the darkened room: “John, Is that you?”  “It sure is Marty. I heard you were in here, I wanted to make sure you were okay and see if you needed anything.” Martin looked into the 50 year member's eyes and said with a feeble smile. “I’m doing okay. They are taking good care of me, considering everything that is wrong with me.” He looked over and saw Pudge standing near the foot of his hospital bed. "Who is this young man? Is this one of your sons?”

The 50-year member chuckled “Nope, but he might as well be. Marty this is Jeremy Pugslie. Most people just call him Pudge. He belongs to the lodge." Despite the many IV tubes, Marty raised his right arm and gave Pudge a certain grip. In a quiet voice Marty said, “Good to know you Brother. I’m sorry I don’t get down to the lodge much like I used to. I don’t get to meet many of the newer members.”

“I totally understand,” Pudge said. “I’ve heard a lot about you from John.” Martin laughed through a cough, “I bet you have. I could tell you a lot about him, too. I remember once, a long time ago when he was still in short britches, he carved the name of a girl he liked on the wall of the lodge’s preparation room with a pen knife when he was supposed to be cleaning it. His father tanned his hide so hard…” The 50 year member stopped Marty’s story, “Careful Marty, I am trying to run for sainthood and I can’t have these young ones know I am not perfect.” The 50 year member said with a laugh in his voice. Marty smiled and said, “Well son, you will never get elected as long as I am still on this earth. I know all your secrets. Lucky for you the doctor said I won’t be around here much longer.” Martin said quietly.

The 50 year member took the old man's hand and grasped it, trying to choke the tears away, “Oh Marty don’t believe those doctors. You are I both know they don’t know as much as they think they do.” Martin grasped Johns hand back. “I’m afraid this time they might be right. I can see the writing on the wall as clearly as I can see that girl's name you carved on the wall all those years ago.”

Martin continued, “Don’t feel sorry for me. I’ve lived a good life. But sadly, most of the folks I have known all my life have went before me. I can tell because my daughter told me she called the lodge to let the brothers know I was in here and I wasn’t doing well. When I was in active in lodge we used to make it a priority to visit members or their wives in the hospital and make sure they didn’t have any needs. I never heard from anybody. I guess I have gotten so old I have been forgotten just another old dinosaur. I’m just an old photo on the Past Masters wall that no one ever looks at anymore. I know all these men are busy at their jobs, raising kids and trying to keep their wives happy,” Martin said with a slight smile on his face. “We had all of that and more in our day. But when we got a call from the lodge that a Brother was sick or his family was in a desperate situation, we all came running. I guess they are all busy with those charity projects the lodge does now that I read about in the paper.”

“I am just so glad you two came here to see me. I can’t say thank you to you both enough." A tear began to run down Martin’s cheek as his voice began to falter.

“You know I am scared but I am also happy because I will finally be able to stand in the Northeast corner of the Celestial lodge above and hear the Master say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” And I will finally get to sit in lodge with your dad again and all those old guys I have think about every day. But John, I need you to promise me something. Since I had all daughters they don’t understand Masonry. When my time comes to climb those winding stairs will you please make sure I get a Masonic funeral? I will make sure to tell my daughter to get my apron to you.”

The 50 year member sitting at the edge of Martin’s bed. Tears running down his cheeks, his hands shaking said to Martin, “Of course I will Brother. I will personally conduct the service, if I can keep from crying, I am also going to promise you something else. I promise to make sure that you won’t be just another old photo on the wall and I will make sure no other member of this lodge ever feels like they just an old photo either.”


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

The Symbolism of the Beehive

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
WB Christian Garrett, 32°, K.T.

The beehive is a symbol introduced in the Master Mason lecture, representing industry, cooperation, and the idea that a group of individuals working together can accomplish great things. Bees, as creatures, have long been recognized for their remarkable work ethic and the highly organized and efficient social structure of their hives. For Freemasons, the beehive serves as a reminder of the importance of these values in their own lives.

In Masonic symbolism, the beehive is often depicted as a skep, the traditional woven structure reminiscent of an upside-down basket, or by the hexagonal structure of the cells created by the bees working together within. The hive is often shown with a door or entrance, through which the bees enter and exit. One of the primary lessons that the beehive teaches is the importance of industry. Bees are known for their tireless work ethic, spending their entire lives gathering nectar and pollen and constructing the honeycomb within the hive. Similarly, we as Freemasons are encouraged to work hard and diligently, both in our professional lives and in our Masonic pursuits. By ever being industrious, we as Masons can achieve great things, both individually and as a brotherhood.

Cooperation is another key lesson found within the symbolism of the beehive. As the bees work together in a highly organized and efficient manner, each bee performs a specific task that contributes to the overall success of the hive. This cooperation is necessary for the survival of the hive and the production of honey, which serves as a valuable resource for the bees and for humans. So too do we as Masons, strive to cooperate, utilizing our individual skills for the betterment of not only our individual lodges but our fraternity as a whole and thus the world.

By working together, Masons can achieve greater things than we could on our own. The beehive should also be a reminder of the importance of unity. The individual bees within the hive are all part of a larger community, working together for the common good. In the same way, Masons are part of a larger brotherhood, united by shared morals, values, ethics, and goals. Through unity, we can create a strong and cohesive brotherhood that benefits our members and communities alike.

Similarly, In the Old Testament, we see that bees and honey are often used as symbols of industriousness, cooperation, and abundance. For example, in Judges 14:8, Samson finds bees and honey inside the carcass of a lion, symbolizing the idea that even something that seems dead or useless can still contain valuable resources. Likewise, in Proverbs 16:24, Solomon wrote that "gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones," suggesting that kindness and encouragement can be a source of nourishment and strength, thus we are to choose our words wisely.

Finally, the beehive symbolizes the importance of order and organization. Bees have a highly structured social hierarchy, with each bee knowing its place and role within the hive. This order and organization are essential for the efficient functioning of the hive and the accomplishment of its goals. Similarly, we as Masons value order and organization, both within the fraternity and should strive to in our personal lives. But as our yearly election and installation ceremony remind us, we pass on these duties and responsibilities year after year, in a respectful transition of authority.

The Beehive and The Kabbalah:

"A single bee cannot pollinate the field, but by the efforts of the hive, the world can fill with flowers." - Brother Stephen Webinga 32°

The beehive symbolism in Freemasonry can also be related to Kabbalah, the Jewish mystical tradition that seeks to understand the nature of the divine and the universe. In Kabbalah, there are several teachings that align with the lessons of the beehive symbol.

One of the primary teachings of Kabbalah is the concept of Ein Sof, the infinite and unknowable divine essence that exists beyond all creation. Just as the hive represents a community of bees working together for the common good, Ein Sof represents the unity of all things in the universe, working together in harmony to fulfill a greater purpose.

The beehive also relates to the concept of the Tree of Life, which is the central glyph in Kabbalah that represents the divine structure of the universe. The Tree of Life is composed of ten interconnected spheres, or sefirot, that represent different aspects of the divine, such as wisdom, understanding, and compassion. Each sphere is interdependent and necessary for the overall functioning of the Tree, just as each bee is necessary for the functioning of the hive.

In Kabbalah, the Tree of Life is also associated with the concept of the soul, which is said to be composed of ten levels or dimensions that correspond to the sefirot. Each level represents a different aspect of the individual’s spiritual growth and development, and each level builds upon the one before it. The beehive symbol can be seen as a reminder of the importance of each individual’s contribution to the greater whole, just as each bee in the hive is necessary for the survival and success of the entire colony.

Lastly, the beehive can also be related to the concept of tikkun olam, which is a central idea in Kabbalah and Jewish thought more broadly.

Tikkun olam refers to the idea of repairing the world or making it a better place. This is accomplished through acts of kindness, justice, compassion, and by working together to create a more just and equitable society. The beehive in a similar manner represents the idea that by working together, individuals can accomplish great things and create positive change in the world.

In conclusion, the beehive symbol in Freemasonry can be related to Kabbalah through its emphasis on unity, interdependence, and the importance of working together for the greater good. By reflecting on the lessons of the beehive, we as Masons can deepen our understanding of the divine structure of the universe, our place within it, as well as our role in repairing the world to create a more just and compassionate society.


Christian Garrett is the current Worshipful Master of Cottage Grove Masonic Lodge #51in Cottage Grove, Oregon.  He is also an affiliate member of Eugene Lodge #11 and McKenzie River Lodge #195 in Eugene, Oregon. A 32° member of the Eugene Valley of the Scottish Rite, Scribe of Cottage Grove Royal Arch Chapter #41, Secretary for Hiram Council #7 and Ivanhoe Commandery #2, Senior Warden of Goose and Gridiron Allied Masonic Degrees, and Deputy Director of Units for Al Kader Shriners.

What Freemasonry Expects Of You

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners

Recently, a good friend and brother, as well as a huge supporter of this blog, Jim Licquia, shared a little snippet he had found entitled: "What Freemasonry Expects of You". Jim thought it might make a good article, and I accepted the challenge to write one about it.  I have no idea who the original author is, but for your enlightenment, I share the snippet below:

What Freemasonry Expects of You...

In asking Freemasonry to share with you its past, present, and future
You must bear in mind that the relationship is a reciprocal one.
As a Freemason, certain things are expected of you.

Remember always:
The calling of a Freemason is a high one, and your personal conduct should always reflect this.

Loyalty to home, to country, and to the Fraternity is expected of you at all times.

Patriotism is a duty. You should not approve of disloyalty or rebellion.

Freemasonry stands for liberty, equality, and fraternity. Not only for other Masons but for all humanity.

Freedom of thought, speech, and action is supported by Freemasons so far as it is not incompatible with the rights of others.

Every Freemason is the enemy of ignorance, bigotry, oppression, superstition, and all mental and spiritual darkness.

A Mason champions the cause of the widow, the fatherless, the weak, and the oppressed.

He challenges the arbitrary assumption by anyone of the power to dictate any group or individual's actions, beliefs, and destinies.

These time-honored virtues so cherished by our forefathers are still relevant.

Humility, patience, charity, and gentleness are among the hallmarks of purity and integrity of character.

That is what Freemasonry expects of you.

In reading the above, several things become clear to me, but the main thing that stands out is how many of our members probably would read this and agree with it, but then not act according to what it's saying.  This is no surprise to me.  Even in the most well-guarded lodges, we have members that talk the talk but who do not walk the walk. I thought a good experiment would be to break each section apart and look at it from a Masonic lens.  Throughout your degrees, you were charged with acting and conducting yourself in a certain way, and I believe that the snippet above is a summary of these points.   

In asking Freemasonry to share with you its past, present, and future
You must bear in mind that the relationship is a reciprocal one.
As a Freemason, certain things are expected of you.

One of the things that I have addressed many times that I don't like being said to a candidate after his Third Degree even though I believe it to be one hundred percent true is... "You get out of Freemasonry what you put into it."  I don't like this being said to a candidate because I believe that it can be taken out of context and used as an excuse in their mind to justify not returning to the lodge.  I would rather hear something like: "You must bear in mind that the relationship with Freemasonry is a reciprocal one."   

I also believe that this expectation which is being talked about is referenced in this Ritual from the Entered Apprentice Degree: "My Brother: it is hoped and expected that you will apply yourself to the study of masonry as Entered Apprentices served their Masters in ancient times, which was with Freedom, Fervency, and Zeal ."   I think it's important to understand that Freedom, as it's used above, is not used to define a state of not being dominated, enslaved, or otherwise restricted.  Nor does it mean the power of self-determination, to choose your own action independently.  Rather it is used in the archaic sense, which is: a frankness and generous willingness to work or perform one's duty. In this case, how a Freemason is expected to act towards the Worshipful Master and his lodge.  Fervency is warmth, friendliness, earnestness, or intensity of feeling, in this case, the Freemason is expected to show a passion for learning and working in Freemasonry, and doing so with warmth and friendliness towards the Worshipful Master and the Lodge. Zeal is defined as having great energy or enthusiasm in devotion to a task or objective.  A Freemason is expected to have unbridled enthusiasm towards fulfilling a task or objective that is ordered by the Worshipful Master or at the consent of the Lodge. 

Remember always:
The calling of a Freemason is a high one, and your personal conduct should always reflect this.

Throughout the degrees, there are numerous references to how a Freemason is supposed to act, but I think the best summary of this is found in the Charge to the Fellowcraft, which states: "Your general reputation affords satisfactory assurance that you will not suffer any consideration to induce you to act in any manner unworthy of the respectable character you now bear; but, on the contrary, that you will ever display the discretion, the virtue, and the dignity which become a worthy and exemplary Mason."  If you are a longtime reader of the blog, you will find many articles from many different authors that have all addressed the same issue, which is that our behavior outside of the lodge room is more important than our behavior inside of the lodge room.  All it takes is for one of our brethren to do something against our teachings in the profane world, get caught on video doing it, and depending on the severity of what is done, we could be looking at the next Morgan Affair. 

While some of you probably think I'm being dramatic, I'm not.  I want you to think about how easy it would be for Freemasonry to be held accountable for one member's actions in today's age.  We are statistically from a membership standpoint predominately Male, (Yes, there are women who are Freemasons, and while they are considered "Irregular", they practice "Regular" freemasonry see this article "Confusion in the Temple by Elias Akram: and have an average age in the low to mid-sixties.  This is a statement of fact, and not an attempt to disparage our Fraternity, but rather it is to say that we are one bad member away from potential ruin. How we conduct ourselves in the Profane world matters more now than at any other time in history. In today's world, perception is reality, and information, especially in the form of video, can be shared instantaneously with a wide audience.  Subduing one's passions matters more for Freemasons now than at any other point in history because the court of public opinion has a much larger jury, and that jury isn't going to care about how much money we spend on charity per day.  They're going to care about what they see on that video, and there is going to be instant accountability for their actions.   

It also should be a guide to who we allow into our Fraternity. Signing a potential new member's petition after knowing them for an hour over dinner isn't guarding the West Gate.  It's the equivalent of lighting a match near the powder keg.  Every time we strike that match, we're not sure if we're going to be blowing up the Fraternity or not, yet we have members that continue to do so with abandon.  If you care about Freemasonry, then realize that Freemasonry was not designed for everyone.  If someone wants to be a Freemason, then they need to work for it.  Invite them back to dinner several more times, and if you are not in one of those jurisdictions that require background checks for potential members, think about doing one.  Make them do some work to become a member and make sure that you act with due diligence on our end. Are some bad apples going to infiltrate our hallowed halls?  Sure.  You can never really know what is inside a man's heart.  But the odds of getting one are lowered dramatically when you require them to put in an effort to join.  The ones that really have the desire to become a Freemason are going to put in the work. 

  Loyalty to home, to country, and to the Fraternity is expected of you at all times.

The charge in the Entered Apprentice Degree gives specific instructions on Mason's duty to his home, his Country, and Freemasonry.  To home: "As an individual, you are charged to practice the domestic and public virtues. Let temperance, chasten, fortitude support, prudence direct you, and justice be the guide of all your actions.  Be especially careful to maintain, in their fullest splendor, those true Masonic ornaments - brotherly love, relief, and truth." To country: "As a citizen, you are enjoined to be exemplary in the discharge of your civil duties., by never proposing or countenancing any act which may have a tendency to subvert the peace and good order of society; by paying due obedience to the laws under whose protection you live, and by never losing sight of the allegiance due to your country"  To the Fraternity, you are charged to: "Be faithful to the trust committed to your care, manifest your fidelity by a strict observance to the principles of the Fraternity; and by refraining to recommend anyone to a participation in our privileges unless you have strong reasons to believe that by a similar fidelity, he will ultimately reflect honor on our ancient institution".  Furthermore, in our Master Mason Degree, we are reminded that the Master Masons apron is worn in the manner of the operative Master Masons to admonish us the our actions toward all mankind should possess the perfect figure of a square, "To symbolize the integrity of your service to God, and to remind you of your fourfold duty to your country, your family, your neighbor and yourself."  Interestingly enough, we find the Ancient Charges printed by Anderson in 1723 have similar instructions.  Regarding behavior at home, and in your neighborhood it states: "You are to act as becomes a moral and wise man, particularly, not to let your family, friends and neighbors know the concerns of the Lodge, & c., but wisely to consult your own honour, and that of the ancient Brotherhood, for reasons not to be mentioned here. You must also consult your health, by not continuing together too late, or too long from home after Lodge hours are past; and by avoiding of gluttony or drunkenness, that your families be not neglected or injured, nor you disabled from working."   

To Country, under the section, Of The Civil Magistrate Supreme and Subordinate, it says: "A Mason is a peaceable subject to the civil powers, wherever he resides or works, and is never to be concerned in plots and conspiracies against the peace and welfare of the nation, nor to behave himself undutifully to inferior magistrates; for as Masonry hath been always injured by war, bloodshed, and confusion, so ancient kings and princes have been much disposed to encourage the craftsmen, because of their peaceableness and loyalty, whereby they practically answer’d the cavils of their adversaries, and promoted the honour of the Fraternity, who ever flourish’d in times of peace. So that if a Brother should be a rebel against the state, he is not to be countenanc’d in his rebellion, however he may be pitied as an unhappy man; and, if convicted of no other crime, though the loyal brotherhood must and ought to disown his rebellion, and give no umbrage or ground of political jealousy to the government for the time being; they cannot expel him from the Lodge, and his relation to it remains indefeasible."     

Yet, Freemasons have played prominent roles in the revolutions in America, France, Mexico, Venezuela,  and the Philippines.  The liberal values (which I will address shortly) promoted by Freemasonry obviously had some degree of impact on these individuals.  Our American Masonic Icon, George Washington, would have been tried and executed for high treason by the British Crown had he been captured. Other individuals involved in the revolutions above would have suffered the same fate if captured by the parties they were rebelling against.  It's hard for Americans, let alone those that consider themselves patriotic, to look at him as someone who was committing rebellion.  Yet, we need to carefully at what the Ancient Charges state if a brother is not loyal to his Country, then we find that he should not be supported but pitied as being unhappy by his brothers, and as long as they are not convicted of any other crime, (I'm assuming other than that of being a rebel, which most likely would carry a penalty of death), and his brothers must disown his actions and not support them, but that they can not deny him a place in the Lodge.                                   

And to the Fraternity, the Ancient Charges ask every Mason to observe "and also those that shall be communicated to you in another way; cultivating brotherly love, the foundation and capstone, the cement and glory of this ancient Fraternity, avoiding all wrangling and quarrelling, all slander and backbiting, nor permitting others to slander any honest Brother, but defending his character, and doing him all good offices as far as is consistent with your honour and safety, and no farther."  

Patriotism is a duty. You should not approve of disloyalty or rebellion.
Freedom of speech, of the press, of association, of peaceable assembly, and to be able to petition one's government for a redress of grievances is a set of guarantees, protected by the First Amendment, which comprises what can be referred to as freedom of expression. The Supreme Court has written that this freedom is "the matrix, the indispensable condition of nearly every other form of freedom." Without it, other fundamental rights of citizens could wither and die.  Participating in any of the above should be considered Patriotic because the framers had the forethought to grant these rights under the First Amendment of our Constitution, and therefore participation in Civic (or as the ancient charges call them Civil) duties should be seen as Patriotic.  I will discuss more regarding the freedom of expression in the discussion about the idea of Liberty below.  
The idea of patriotism within Freemasonry is a complex one, especially here in America.    Miriam Webster defines Patriotism as love for or devotion to one's country. One of the most obvious displays of Patriotism we display as Freemasons, at least here in Illinois, is reciting the pledge of allegiance to the flag of our country prior to opening a Blue Lodge meeting.  The idea of Patriotism has been put to the test in the United States of America seems to be continually put to the test.  Recently, due to politicization of events where a citizen or citizens have expressed their opinions by exercising their First Amendment rights, the idea of being Patriotic has become politicized.  Because of the politicization of civic virtues like Patriotism, it's a subject that I was hesitant to write about, especially given the political polarization of our society.  However, I think that we as Freemasons must be an example of showing unity in our displays of Patriotism, regardless of our person political inclinations. 
It is my personal belief that a Freemason must take the view that performing our civic duty is to be patriotic, and every Freemason must accept everyone's rights are the same under the First Amendment regardless of their personal beliefs and that the exercise of those rights is in itself a patriotic act.  This does not mean that a Freemason can not be opposed to something that is being expressed either through speech, the press, peaceable assembly or redressing of grievances , but rather that he upholds the rights of those that he might otherwise disagree with on sectarian topics. An example of this from the not-too-distant past is one that happened in the State of Illinois.  In 1977, the ACLU took on the case of defending a group of Chicago Area Nazis who wanted to hold a demonstration in downtown Skokie, which is a suburb of Chicago that was at that time the home to hundreds of survivors of the Holocaust and has a large Jewish population.  Ultimately, the Nazis decided to assemble in a park in Chicago instead. While a Freemason should find the beliefs held by any Nazi abhorrent, Freemasons must also understand that they are entitled to the same rights and privileges as every other citizen under the First Amendment.       

Yet, there is a distinction that needs to be made between exercising one's First Amendment rights, even when the majority of citizens would rather suppress any expression of it they might find offensive and violent Mob action.  Anytime the actions of individuals who are exercising their Constitutional rights become violent, then those rights are rescinded, and by proxy, those actions can no longer be considered Patriotic, and must be considered criminal instead. Using the example above, the ACLU warned the Nazis that any attempt to incite or participate in violence would mean that they would no longer be able to defend them on First Amendment grounds.

Due to the politicization mentioned above, the idea of being Patriotic has also been co-opted to be equated with the idea of Nationalism.  To quote Charles DeGualle: "Patriotism is when love of your country comes first; nationalism, when hate for people other than your own comes first."  Nationalism is: “the policy or doctrine of asserting the interests of one’s own nation viewed as separate from the interests of other nations or the common interests of all nations.”   Nationalism is a term used when political ideologies and movements that a more extreme and exclusionary love of one’s country—at the expense of foreigners, immigrants, and even people in a country who aren’t believed to belong in some way, often upon racial and religious grounds.  It is a direct contradiction to Patriotism.  Patriotism is not nationalism.  The lessons of Freemasonry are in direct contradiction to Nationalism.  Look no further than what has happened to Freemasons under Totalitarian rule to see an example of this.    

         Freemasonry stands for liberty, equality, and fraternity. Not only for other Masons but for all humanity.
All of the above is what should be considered Freemasonry's core liberal values.  From a Masonic viewpoint, Liberty is the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed on one's way of life, behavior, or religious/political views.  Equality is the concept that all humanity is equal, but further that no man be denied rights, privileges, or opportunities because of their birth, class, caste, religion, color, race, gender, or social standing. Fraternity is the idea that all of humankind is the same.  Being a Freemason means that you not only uphold the above and fight for these rights for other Freemasons, but for everyone.  

Freedom of thought, speech, and action is supported by Freemasons so far as it is not incompatible with the rights of others.

The idea of Liberty is to allow freedom of thought, speech, and action.  It is the idea that all men should be allowed to think, say or do as they please as long as that thought, speech, or action does not infringe on the rights of others.  Much like the example I gave above regarding the idea of practicing Patriotism in the expression of one's fundamental right to protest via peaceable assembly, the above covers the other rights we have under the First Amendment. This can be difficult sometimes for a Freemason to do, especially when they have an understanding that their political or religious beliefs may be against that thought, speech, or action.  Ultimately, in these cases, I would ask one to simply follow that Golden Rule, the truth of which resides in some form in every holy book, which is the simple act of treating others how you yourself would want to be treated.   You personally do not have to like what they think, say, or do; but as a Freemason, you should support their right to do so as long as what they are thinking, saying, or doing is not infringing on those same rights that you or other citizens have.  

Every Freemason is the enemy of ignorance, bigotry, oppression, superstition, and all mental and spiritual darkness.
Being an enemy of ignorance, bigotry, oppression, superstition, and all mental and spiritual darkness is someone who is aware of and fighting against the spread of ignorance (lack of knowledge, education, or awareness which leads to the spreading of misinformation), bigotry (prejudice against a person or group of people based upon their race, religion, sexuality, gender and their expression of such), oppression (prolonged cruel or unjust treatment or control usually of a particular group), superstition (a widely held but unjustified belief in supernatural causation leading to certain consequences of an action or event, or a practice based on such a belief), mental darkness (the condition of being uninformed or uneducated) and spiritual darkness (the absence of belief in a deity). 

A Mason champions the cause of the widow, the fatherless, the weak, and the oppressed.

Championing the cause of the widow, the fatherless (orphans), the weak, and the oppressed is supporting and contributing to the relief of those less fortunate than ourselves.  It is practicing Charity towards all mankind, not only in monetary form but as being someone who actively is working to make the world a better place.  It can be as simple as a random act of kindness in the profane world towards those less fortunate than ourselves.  It is helping someone if they ask for help, without the expectation of any reward.  Contributing one's relief means to help soothe whatever affliction or problem they are facing.  

He challenges the arbitrary assumption by anyone of the power to dictate any group or individual's actions, beliefs, and destinies.  

This is again the idea of supporting Liberty as the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one's way of life, behavior, or religious/political views.  All Freemasons should recognize a case of a group or individual using an ideology of bigotry to deny the liberties of a minority individual or group as being wrong and should challenge that group or individual.  Yet, Liberty is another idea that has been politicized due to recent events.  What is a Freemason supposed to do when the definition of Liberty isn't so cut and dry?   

Ultimately, that answer is up to every Freemason.  As Freemasons, I would hope that we would not be willing to allow another brother to operate a motor vehicle if we observe them to be intoxicated.  While this infringes on the individual Brothers' liberty, taking their keys away could ultimately save not only their life but the lives of others as well.  In such cases, do the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one as Mr. Spock famously stated in the movie Star Trek 2 Wrath of Khan?  I would say that we as brothers are obligated to protect each other from harm and that we also would not want to harm anyone else.  So while we should challenge infringements upon any individual's or group's liberty, it is my opinion that we should also recognize that in situations where others could be harmed or killed by allowing Liberty to be exercised, a Freemason would be like Spock, and understand that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one.    
The above liberal values of Freemasonry align with the idea of having a society that is open and inclusive for everyone.   Freemasonry teaches us that the immovable jewels of the Square, Level, and Plumb teach morality, equality, and the rectitude of life. Morality is a code of conduct that, given specified conditions, would be put forward by all rational people. Equality is, again, the concept that all humanity is equal, but further that no man be denied rights, privileges, or opportunities because of their birth, class, caste, religion, color, race, gender, or social standing.  Rectitude of Life is the act of living a life that is correct, upright, and honorable.  This is in step with the idea of the Freemason exercising Brotherly Love which teaches us: "To regard the whole human species as one family, the high and low, rich and poor; who as created by one Almighty Parent, and inhabitants of the same planet, are to aid, support and protect each other.  On this principle, Masonry unites men of every country, sect, and opinion, and conciliates true friendship among those who might otherwise have remained at a perpetual distance."   

These time-honored virtues so cherished by our forefathers are still relevant.

Humility, patience, charity, and gentleness are among the hallmarks of purity and integrity of character.

That is what Freemasonry expects of you.

Freemasonry is still relevant.  The world needs our values now more than ever.  There will always be a need for mature masculine role models. Time will tell if Freemasonry survives, but when we do not act according to our tenets, and we sully the reputation of Freemasonry, we are hurting the chances of its survival.  Like I said above, we are only one bad apple away from the next Morgan affair.  All it takes is one Freemason to not hold up his end of the bargain, to not act according to the above in the profane world, and for that act to be horrendous, go viral on Tik Tok, and it all comes crumbling down like the walls of Jericho.  It's really that simple.  So remember that if you choose to wear a Masonic ring or Masonic apparel in public that you represent the entire Fraternity.  That is why Freemasonry has these expectations.  Live up to them. 


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