Twice in 24 Hours: The Lodge Education Series

by Midnight Freemason Emeritus Contributor
R.H. Johnson

Prepared for Waukegan Masonic Lodge No. 78 May 15th, 2023

*Note* – This education piece is a little different, as it’s edited to be fit for the profane. The topic is related to the penalties of breaking a Masonic obligation. Within the Jurisdiction of Illinois, there are secrets and the penalties of your obligation are considered to be among them. To this end, the article is slightly altered as to avoid any…imperial entanglements. 


The Masonic penalties within Freemasonry are largely considered to be of a secret nature—not to be discussed outside the walls of our fraternity. What I would like to mention, however, is an element of one of those penalties in a way that is acceptable. 


Within the Entered Apprentice degree, as in all degrees in Freemasonry, we take an obligation and make certain promises. There is, of course, a penalty for breaking this promise. In the first degree, there is an allusion to a place where the tide ebbs and flows twice in 24 hours. This is an ancient ritual that dates back to "time immemorial." This ritual is used to symbolize the consequences of breaking one of the most sacred of Masonic oaths—the vow of secrecy. 


In this penalty, an item is buried in a spot that is affected by the ebb and flow of the tide. This spot must be one where the tide ebbs and flows twice within a 24-hour period. 


Curiously this happens nowhere on Earth but in one place. 


This ritual is meant to serve as a reminder to all Masons of the importance of keeping their oaths and of the consequences of breaking them. 


The symbolism of this ritual is quite powerful and meaningful. The ebb and flow of the tide is a metaphor for the passage of time and the effects of breaking the oath. As the tide ebbs and flows, the sand gradually covers and uncovers, symbolizing the gradual fading of the vow of secrecy. The fact that the tide ebbs and flows twice in 24 hours serves as a reminder that the consequences of breaking the oath will remain forever, even if the person is no longer a Mason. 


It could even be considered a ceremonious repeated washing as a sign of mistrust. 


It is a tangible reminder of the commitment that is made to uphold the ideals of the fraternity and to protect the secrets of the Masonic order.


So where does this ebb and flow happen twice in 24 hours?


The Dead Sea is a unique location on Earth, as it is the only place in the world where the tide ebbs and flows twice in 24 hours. Located between Jordan and the West Bank of Israel, the Dead Sea is an inland saltwater lake that is renowned for its high salinity and its healing properties. Its unique characteristics make it a popular destination for tourists and travelers from all over the world. 


The Dead Sea has an impressive depth of over 1,200 feet, and its shore is the lowest point on the Earth's surface. Its unique combination of high salinity and minerals, as well as its location in the protective basin of the Jordan Valley, make it one of the most saline bodies of water on the planet. 


This high salinity contributes to the phenomenon of the twice-daily tidal flux. The twice-daily tidal flux is caused by the gravitational pull of the sun and moon and the effect of the Mediterranean Sea. The Mediterranean Sea causes a powerful current to flow from the south to the north, which creates a swell that causes the tide to rise and fall twice in 24 hours. This phenomenon is unique to the Dead Sea, as all other bodies of water experience only one high and low tide in a day.


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



by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Brian Nemeth

It’s the month of May and summer will officially be here soon. The kids will finish up with school, then proceed to drive us crazy, because they have nothing to do. Even after we suggest they go outside and play sports or read books or solve puzzles or analyze problems. But with this month, May, there is a Federal Holiday, a 3-day weekend! A three-day weekend at the beginning of summer usually means: Bar-B-Que!!! Alright! I’ll get the checklist out to be sure I have everything I need for this official opening of summer Bar-B-Q. Let’s see; hotdogs, hamburgers, buns, chicken, corn on the cob, mustard, ketchup, relish, potato salad, paper plates, plastic silverware, picnic tablecloths, napkins, Ice-Tea, Kool-Aide, and of course, the grill. I’ll need to check the grill to be sure it’s clean, and I have enough charcoal or propane and my grilling tools are not too rusty from sitting in the garage all winter. Now what am I forgetting? Don’t tell me, let me ponder. Oh, I think the big question is: “Why are we having Memorial Day and what does it mean? Besides another 3-day weekend.”

Much of the following information has been obtained by reading articles by Maynard Edwards, Chris Hodapp, Greg Knott, and David Ross. (Editor's Note: I can share these referenced materials upon request.)

Memorial Day is not to be confused with Veteran’s Day, which comes in November. Memorial Day used to be a day where local newspapers would publish articles about a few hometown war heroes, maybe put their picture next to the article; maybe the article will be on page 2, if the veteran is lucky; maybe the article will include a brief summary of their military career and some of the things they did while on active duty and what they have done since leaving the military. But now days, there’s hardly a hometown newspaper to print such an article. And if you dig a little deeper, perhaps on social media, you might find comments posted from family members who just want more than anything else for their veteran loved one to simply be remembered, if only for one day of the year.

Well, how did all this Memorial Day stuff even start?

When it first came about, in 1868, when it was first observed, it was called “Decoration Day.” It was meant to provide a time of remembrance for those members of the military who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our nation.” Today, across the nation, wreaths are laid, taps are played, the colors are lowered by members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, and of course, Masonic Lodges.

Masonic Lodges you say? Yes! You have a fellow mason to thank for it. His name was Brother John Alexander Logan. He was born on February 9, 1826, and died on December 26, 1886, just 60 years old. He was an American soldier and politician. He served in wars and rose from the rank of Private to Major General.

Bro Logan was raised in Mitchell Lodge No. 85 (AF&AM) of Pinckneyville, IL, and affiliated with other lodges and many masonic organizations in Illinois, including the York Rite and Scottish Rite in Chicago.

Apparently, Bro Logan was something. He founded and was the 2nd Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic. The Grand Army of the Republic was a veteran’s group made up of former Union soldiers. At its peak, the Grand Army of the Republic boasted 490,000 members, but was disbanded in 1956, when the last member passed away.

As I said, the Grand Army of the Republic was a fraternal organization that promoted Fraternity, Charity, and Loyalty as its basic premises, sound familiar? Many members of the Grand Army of the Republic were Freemasons. I have read the rituals of the Grand Army and saw quite a resemblance to our Masonic rituals, not word for word, but enough to be able to recognize, there were similarities, including a solemn obligation.

The custom of decorating soldiers’ graves predates Bro Logan’s order, which I’ll read shortly. The tradition was first observed by a lady’s group in Savannah, Georgia, who made it a point to annually place flowers on the graves of Confederate soldiers.

One of the Earliest Memorial Day Ceremonies was held at the close of Civil War by mostly freed African Americans in Charleston, SC, to honor their fallen companions and soldiers with parade at the local racetrack.

Bro Logan is regarded as the most important figure in the movement to recognize Memorial Day as an official holiday. After Bro/General Logan’s order, Michigan was the first state to make Decoration Day an official state holiday. Bro Logan chose May 30 to be the day to be designated as the date of Decoration Day, because it was not the anniversary of any particular battle.

Bro Logan was said to be intense. Here is Gen Logan’s Grand Army of the Republic General Order 11, as I suspect he may have delivered it:

The 30th day of May 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but Posts and comrades, will in their own way, arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit. We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose among other things, “of preserving and strengthening those kind of fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion.” What can aid more to assure this result than cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes? Their soldier lives, were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains, and their deaths the tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms. We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no vandalism or avarice or neglect, no ravages of time testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.

If other eyes grow dull, other hands slack and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain to us. Let us, then, at the time appointed gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring time; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon a nation’s gratitude, the soldier’s and sailor’s widow and orphan.

It is the purpose of the Commander-in-Chief to inaugurate this observance with the hope that it will be kept up from year to year, while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his departed comrades. He earnestly desires the public press to lend its friendly aid in bringing to the notice of comrades in all parts of the country in time for simultaneous compliance therewith.”

General Order # 11.

In 1868, this day was called Decoration Day. In 1967 the name was changed to Memorial Day. And in 1971 it was changed to be observed on the last Monday in May and be a national holiday.

In Indianapolis, there is a Congressional Medal of Honor Memorial along the banks of the canal downtown. It has all the names and a few stories of the 3,506 recipients (with 3525 awarded, some multiples) since the Medal's creation in 1861.

But as amazing and heroic and tragic and heartbreaking as those histories are, soldiers, sailors, and airmen don't always receive big, impressive medals before or after they don't make it home. Most of them don't, and their stories don't always get memorialized. For every story we hear about, there are hundreds we never do. They have families and histories that need to be remembered too, beyond just a name on a forgotten stone in a grassy field somewhere nobody visits very often. Even on a special holiday just for them.

Please remember all those thousands upon thousands of men and women whose names never got in the paper, except perhaps for a brief obituary, who have given so much for all of us.

It is incumbent upon all of us sitting here today, and for our families, and for our friends, to never forget the veterans who paid the ultimate sacrifice, and for those veterans who still serve today, and those that will serve tomorrow, to remember the significance of and the profound meaning of what Memorial Day is.


Brian Nemeth:
Initiated in Faxton Lodge # 697, F&AM, Utica, NY on December 2, 1974.
Passed in Faxton Lodge # 697, F&AM, Utica, NY on January 20, 1975.
Raised in Faxton Lodge # 697, F&AM, Utica, NY on February 12, 1975.
In Utica, NY, Liberty Lodge # 959 merged with Faxton Lodge # 697, then Carducci Lodge # 924 merged with Faxton Lodge # 697 and Liberty Lodge.  Then Faxton Lodge 697 merged with Oriental Lodge # 224, in Utica, NY, on December 17, 1993, thus becoming Oriental-Faxton Lodge # 224, F&AM in Utica, NY.
Lodge histories:
Oriental Lodge # 224 was chartered on June 17, 1851.
Faxton Lodge # 697 was chartered on June 10, 1870.
Carducci Lodge # 924 was chartered on July 3, 1915.
Liberty Lodge # 959 was chartered on May 22, 1919.
All four of these lodges were in Utica, NY.
He joined The Order of DeMolay, Mohawk Valley Chapter, Order of DeMolay in Utica, NY and was the Master Councilor for two consecutive terms.
He received the Degree of Chevalier on June 15, 1974. He is still a Senior DeMolay.
He joined the Scottish Rite, Valley of Middle Georgia, Orient of Georgia on June 18, 1977.   I am a 32 degree.
Since moving fulltime to Florida in 2005, he attended lodge with Beach Lodge # 354, F&AM, Indialantic, FL and Harbor City Lodge # 318, F&AM in Melbourne, FL.
He applied for and was accepted as a dual member of Harbor City Lodge # 318, F&AM, in 2022.
He still retains his membership with Oriental-Faxton Lodge # 224, in Utica, NY.
He has visited many lodges and have pins that take up both my lapels to show for it!  But always looking for more.
His Air Force career spanned 28 years, and I retired as a Lt Colonel, Nurse Corps, from Andrews AFB, MD. in 2005.

“No Talking Politics!” - A Glance at Freemasonry and Politics

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Patrick Dey

At the end of last month Darin Lahners posted on this blog a post in which he says that Freemasonry is “supposed to be a refuge from Religion, Politics, and other sectarian subjects.” And that is the general opinion of brothers within our polite gentlemen’s society: that we should avoid talking about the three things that give our individual lives any value, meaning, or purpose: politics, religion, and sex. Now, while I commend Bro. Darin on his article, I do have to dispute the extent to which Masonry and politics have remained separate, if they have ever been separate, and if they even can be separate.

Freemasonry and politics walk hand-in-hand, almost since its origins as a social club, and really long before that. For instance, the old guild system was an economic system, which means it was by extension a political arm of social-economic policies. Guilds were government sanctioned monopolies. To be, say a baker, and practice in a commercial capacity, you had to be part of the bakers guild. Sure, you could bake at home for your family, but if you wanted to bake and sell bread, you had to contend with the guild, who had the blessing of the king, governor, or whomever has granted them the monopoly. Guilds had patrons, usually an aristocrat who had a vested interest in the commercial work of the guild. For instance, if one owned a silver mine, they would be a patron of the silversmith guild. The patron would lend his political influence to curry favors for the guild from the king or governor, and likewise would help enforce regulations the king has mandated upon a guild, which also ensures his commercial interests in the work of that guild. Such was a matter of public health and safety, maintained quality of production, et cetera. So long before Freemasonry emerges from the stonemason guilds as a symbolic gentlemen’s club, it was already a political organization.

As laissez-faire capitalism emerges, and soon thereafter communism, the guilds as the dominant politico-economic system begins to wane. It is these two opposing economic systems that effectively kill the guilds, as both were equally in opposition to the guilds as they were to each other. Yet, more and more non-operative Masons were still joining the remnants of the stonemason guilds, effectively as patrons. And like the old patrons, though they may not have had a commercial interest in stonemasonry, they were nearly all aristocrats, the likes of which include Sir Robert Moray (initiated in 1641) and Alias Ashmole (initiated in 1646). These gentlemen appear to have used Symbolic Masonry as a private club to rub shoulders and advance scientific and philosophical agendas in a socio-political capacity, and such political ideologies would continue on into the formation of the Premier Grand Lodge of England in 1717.

One need only look at the driving personalities behind the formation of the Grand Lodge of England, as well as the relationship many of these men had to preceding events in England to see the politics embedded in Freemasonry from its very start.

Ric Berman traces the politics behind the formation of the Grand Lodge of England in several of his books (e.g. Inventing the Future, his Prestonian lecture, et al), which I will outline here using his work. As Protestantism spread and gained followers in the 16th and 17th centuries, especially in France, Catholics grew increasingly belligerent toward them. Hundreds of thousands of French Huguenots were massacred over the course of two centuries by French Catholic Kings. One need only look at St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in 1572 or the Dragonnades implemented under King Louis XIV to see how terribly Huguenots were treated: theft, rape, torture, murdered… absolutely awful. And over the course of these two centuries the Huguenots would trickle out of France into Germany, Switzerland, North Africa, and most popularly to England. Then in 1685 the last vestige of protection any French Protestant had was revoked by King Louis, and that previous trickle turned into a flood of mass migration of Protestants. And England was very sympathetic to their plight, providing asylum, charitable funds to support them, opportunities for work, et cetera. It is estimated that post-1865 the population of London was 10% Huguenot.

And why wouldn’t England be accommodating to them? They had spent decades trying to get rid of Catholic rulers. And with George I and James Stewart contending for the throne, it became dire for England to keep James from assuming the throne, and thus George I of the House of Hanover became King. There was a serious threat that James would attempt to seize the throne, and he did try, several times, and France, Rome, and Spain all supported him. Over the years a number of Jacobite uprisings occurred to attempt to dethrone George I, but all failed. Had James seized the throne, all those Huguenots that sought asylum in England would have entered into the same predicament they were in previously.

The personalities behind the formation of the Grand Lodge of England were all aristocratic (with the exception of Anthony Sayer, the first Grand Master). They were noblemen with high-ranking titles, advocated pro-Enlightenment philosophy and scientific pursuits, Protestant, and pro-Hanoverian. Jean Theophilius Desaguliers, the third Grand Master, was the son of a Huguenot refugee from France. He grew up poor, his father working for a church in North London, which did not include a salary, but a stipend provided to all the workers for the amount of service they provided, which they split collectively. But Desaguliers becomes wealthy and greatly respected, rising through the ranks rapidly in a way that was almost unprecedented prior to the Huguenot migration.

All the Grand Masters for the first few decades were pro-Hanoverian. That is, they supported Enlightenment ideologies, they promoted meritocracy for social advancement rather than a rigid class system in which there was next to no social mobility; they championed freedom of religion, which was unheard of in its time; they promoted equal rights within governance, such as each man gets a vote and each vote is equal, regardless of social standing. And they provided a social club that would permit such to be implemented. As long as you could afford to pay your dues as a Freemason, you could practice whatever religion you wanted, and it allowed for a simple laborer to have as much right to become Worshipful Master of a lodge as a duke or lord, and that both had the same value in their votes.

This was wildly unheard of. It was truly radical, and deeply political. We might put this on par with, say, a lodge in South Carolina admitting a person of color into their lodge, or any lodge anywhere admitting a transgender or gender-non-conforming person into Masonry. Sure, today we look at Article I of the Constitutions of Free-Masons (1723) and think: “Oh yes, they were wise and ahead of their time.” No, they were absolutely radical. I’m certain there were Masons at the time who were saying: “Keep politics out of the Lodge!” when the Constitutions was published in 1723. And as a note, while we are not totally certain, most scholars firmly believe that Desaguliers was the author of the Charges.

Then look at Article II of the Charges, which specifically states that Masons maintain a “peaceable” subservience to the government, but there is still no problem with a Mason being rebellious toward his government: “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.”

Let’s put that into perspective. I remember during the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 there were a lot of brothers I heard advocating for the expulsion of any Mason who participated in those protests. Every Grand Master in the United States issued a formal letter condemning the violence at those protests, and yet, only two Grand Masters formally condemned the violent actions of the insurrectionists on January 6, 2021, and likewise the same brothers calling for the expulsion of BLM protestors were suddenly very quiet on January 6. Double-standards aside, and explicit political biases aside as well, in either instances, so long as a brother did not actually commit a crime, or least was never charged and found guilty of a crime, then no action should be taken against him in the Masonic fraternity, at least according to Desaguliers, Anderson, etc. A brother may have supported the Black Lives Matter movement, or even supported the violence on the Capitol while Congress was in session, but unless he actually did anything, his political opinion is not chargeable. Sure, he may be regarded as an “unhappy man” and all Masons should “disown his rebellion,” but nothing else could be done. It is wild to me, personally, that both rebellions could be weighed the same by Masons, and yet the framers of the Constitutions of 1723 would have seen it exactly like that.

This would be like the Premier Grand Lodge of England permitting a Catholic supporter of James Stewart to become Grand Master… and they did. Philip Wharton, the First Duke of Wharton, was just such a person. Where everyone else was Protestant and pro-Hanoverian, when the Duke of Montagu stepped down as Grand Master, the Duke of Wharton stepped up. He had long been placated by the King and the high-ranking aristocracy, being given titles and lordships to subdue his passions as a Jacobite and win his loyalty to the King. He was also a wildcard, likely being a libertine, and certainly indulging in transgressive and immoral activities. He was even the founder of the original Hellfire Club. However, soon Masons grew tired of his Jacobite rhetoric, and his Deputy Grand Master, Desaguliers, would push him to step down from Mastership. Mind you, at the time, there were still ongoing Jacobite revolts and they were real threats to the Throne of England. We might put this on par with a member of Al Qaeda becoming a Grand Master… and then only urging him to stepdown as Grand Master and no further action taken against him, so long as he was not actually engaged in any crimes. Yep. All anyone can say is: “Booooooooooo!”

It is easy for us look back at the politics of the early Grand Lodge of England and see it as mere “history.” We don’t see all this as deeply political, or even radically political, but it was. We lose sight of the implications of these things because they happened in England a long time ago. Yet, even as history marches forward, we will see again and again Freemasonry intwined with politics.

Freemasonry is a social club, and thus is typically a reflection of the larger socio-political climate it is situated within. I could probably do a second part to this piece to further elaborate, and I probably should, but for now, I will leave it at this. We could deeply explore the politics behind various anti-fraternization policies of Grand Lodges during the American Civil War, as well as how many brothers chose to ignore those policies (and just as many followed them). I have previously explored on the Whence Came You? podcast how most Freemasons and Grand Lodges in Germany renounced Freemasonry and signed up with the Third Reich when Hitler became Chancellor of Germany… a reality that is very contrary to the feel-good narrative we are fed about the origin of the Forget-Me-Not. Heck, even today, I have wondered how the Grand Master of Russia could run against Putin for President and not end up going missing (it has been rumored that the two are very close friends and that Putin actually has some influence over how Freemasons conduct themselves politically in Russia). We could look at how Freemasons have committed treason together (e.g. Boston Tea Party) as well as build a nation and even form states (e.g. it is well known that Freemasons had a huge and mighty hand in the formation of the State of Colorado).

Time and time again we will find that Freemasonry is very political, or at least politics and Freemasonry often walk hand-in-hand, no matter how much we say otherwise. The larger issue isn’t that we need to keep politics out of the Lodge or that our fractured political climate in the United States is bleeding over into the Lodge. No, the bigger issue is that we are confusing our patriotism with our politics.

We know we have a deeply divided political climate in this country. The issue has become that one side of the political aisle thinks their politics is “patriotic” and thus the other side are seditious bastards. Each side thinks their party is correct and walking with God, so the other side is wrong, and therefore we are the patriotic side
. If being antisemitic is the policy of one side, then the other side that says, “Hey maybe we don’t exterminate Jewish people,” then the former will claim that any favor extended to Jewish people is unpatriotic... and horrible things tend to follow shortly thereafter, historically speaking. Swap “Jewish” with “transgender” and the same point stands. Frame the same scenario with gun laws and suddenly one side is full of terrorists that want to rip this country apart! (See how I kept that example vague, and you already think it fits your point of view?)

It's not that politics in Masonry is dangerous. It’s how far sideways political identity has tipped. Bro. Darin’s original point in his post still stands: a lack of thinking, a total lack of reason in guiding our political understandings, a complete lack of original rhetoric in how we understand how we live and make policies together, has led to a decay in how politics can ever be appropriate within Masonry. Thus, what we are left with is left or right-wing soundbites regurgitated as if original, but ultimately is a lot of “sound and fury, signifying nothing.” This is when politics in Masonry becomes dangerous: when politics can’t be a part of Masonry.



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.

Setting Ourselves Up for Success

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Randy Sanders

The other day I was reminded to play chess, not checkers.  I heard and used that saying myself, so it came as a shock to hear them used back at me!  Was I not following my own advice?  Did I fail to pick up on whatever opportunity arose from my activities? 

Freemasonry teaches the subtlety of self-realization by way of self-improvement.  In a perfect world I would stop there and just meditate on that above sentence for a couple of weeks.  Unfortunately, who has time to meditate just on that?  Right?  I challenge myself and all who read this to change perception and make this a priority.  Self-realization comes by way of self-improvement.  Success in the future comes by way of developing ourselves now. 

Proper planning, the discipline of defining goals, and maintaining a personal ritual remain very powerful tools in our personal toolkit.  If ritual itself is so important to Freemasons, why do we take it for granted?  There isn’t a question of whether or not there will be ritual, the more accurate question becomes which ritual should we open and close lodge with tonight?  Readers might recognize that some jurisdictions have optional passages of ritual that aren’t required all the time.  We plan ahead for that opening and closing of the lodge, we plan ahead to prepare ourselves mentally to enter a sacred space, and we plan ahead to actively participate even if we sit on the sidelines. 

Proper planning might sound like a lofty goal for someone who tends toward spontaneity, and for some this is a challenge.  I like to use the analogy of the NFL draft in such instances.  If we boil it down to simple terms, we find three pros and three cons to any draftee or in this case any situation.  We write down three pros and write down three cons, then we walk away for a while.  Maybe we move on to another task to return to this planning or decision at a later time.  We find that writing down the pros and cons gives us a chance at an enhanced perspective, and often the decision becomes obvious. 

My version of the NFL draft doesn’t begin to cover the depth of management training, short and long term planning, leadership development, and other such teachings, yet it serves me well for decisions that might have an emotional attachment.  I may want to choose one path, but the perspective of writing down the top three pros and cons for that decision gives me clarity toward which path is best at that time.  This simple mind game of writing down the pros and cons sets me up for later success in making the optimal choice while giving me perspective and time to consider my options.  It allows me to play chess, not checkers, in taking time to visualize my future moves. 

Longer term planning becomes a game of fill in the blanks after we define a timeline or similar parameter.  I know that when a project gets a green light to proceed, that I need a plan in place to make it successful.  I know I need a goal, and maybe I can subdivide that goal.  If the Junior Deacon wants to have a competition Lodge Bowling League for example, the current Worshipful Master would be wise to schedule a few social nights at the local bowling alley.  The current Senior Warden would be wise to plan to set into motion regular bowling practice sessions during his term as Worshipful Master.  Now the Junior Warden implements his plans based on the success set up by the senior officers.  The Junior Warden’s dream of a competition bowling league has a much better chance of success when the plan is created and executed than just springing it on the Brethren after the Junior Warden advances to the Master’s chair in the East. 

The above is a simplistic example.  If your lodge wants to be successful in an event, having people show up and stand around is useless.  Having people show up over time to implement an incremental plan leading into a longer-term goal suddenly sounds more productive.  Well, it does to me anyway.


Randy and his wife Elyana live near St. Louis, Missouri, USA. Randy earned a bachelor's Degree in Chemistry with an emphasis in Biochemistry, and he works in Telecom IT management. He volunteers as a professional and personal mentor, NRA certified Chief Range Safety Officer, and enjoys competitive tactical pistol, rifle, and shotgun. He has 30-plus years of teaching Wing Chun Kung Fu, Chi Kung, and healing arts. Randy served as a Logistics Section Chief on two different United States federal Disaster Medical Assistance Teams over a 12-year span. Randy is a 32nd-degree KCCH and Knight Templar. His Masonic bio includes past Lodge Education Officer for two symbolic lodges, Founder of the Wentzville Lodge Book Club, member of the Grand Lodge of Missouri Education Committee, Sovereign Master of the E. F. Coonrod AMD Council No. 493, Co-Librarian of the Scottish Rite Valley of St. Louis, Clerk for the Academy of Reflection through the Valley of Guthrie, and a Facilitator for the Masonic Legacy Society. Randy is a founding administrator for Refracted Light, a full contributor to Midnight Freemasons, and an international presenter on esoteric topics. Randy hosts an open ongoing weekly Masonic virtual Happy Hour on Friday evenings. Randy is an accomplished home chef, a certified barbecue judge, raises Great Pyrenees dogs, and enjoys travel and philosophy.

Extending the Twenty-Four Inch Gauge

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Erik M. Geehern

As I write this it has been approximately twenty-four hours since I sat in the East for the very first time. Yesterday I had the honor of conferring the Entered Apprentice degree on two new Brothers of our Lodge. This was our Lodge's first EA degree since June of 2021, and the first degree ever in our new building.

My usual vocation is in restaurant consulting and sales, and I work six days a week consistently. Saturday is my only day off, which is why I scheduled the degree for that day. It led to better attendance and as many of our Brothers are older, they do not want to be getting home super late on a Monday night, which is our usual meeting day.

As Junior Warden it was also my responsibility to provide the meal for this degree. Since this was a Summoned Communication on a Saturday afternoon, I decided we would have a nice brunch prior to the degree. The menu consisted of a few different egg dishes, scones, a few different baked French toast dishes, sausage gravy and biscuits, potatoes, and yogurt and fruit parfaits. Of course, when I decided on the menu, I was not considering my wife would be away and unable to assist in getting everything together, but luckily my sixteen-year-old son was able to help me the morning of.

With his assistance I was able to pull everything together in time, get to the Lodge and set up before the majority of people came in hungry, and finish my personal preparations to get ready for the Degree itself. The meal was very well received, and I received many compliments from the Brethren in attendance.

A normal stated meeting of our Lodge sees attendance of between eight to twelve Brothers on average. I was thrilled to see that about twenty-five Brothers attended the degree, many from neighboring Lodges. This was the first time in our new Lodge room that all the chairs had bodies in them, even in the North and it was fantastic to see. I think it is such an amazing thing when so many like-minded people come together in a common purpose, in this instance the initiation of two worthy men into our Fraternity.

Overall, the day was fantastic, and ranks as one of the single best events of my Masonic journey. Sure, there were a few hiccups, a missed line here or there, but nothing that could have potentially detracted from the experience of initiation for our two new Brothers, and that is all that really mattered.

One thing that really stood out to me was how many Brothers approached me to say how they didn't know how I had time to get everything done with my busy work schedule. Not trying to be braggadocious, but I hear this so often, whether in regards to educational pieces I put together, creating our quarterly newsletter, or preparing our meeting meals. It really comes down to one simple thing, if something is truly important to you, it is easy to find the time.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said “One always has time enough, if one will apply it well.” I have certainly found that to be true. Prior to becoming a Mason, I was working like a dog. Seventy plus hour weeks, lots of travel, not enough family time, most of us have been in that rut before. Since then, I have really taken the lessons of our working tools to heart, especially that of the twenty-four inch gauge. Now, I am not saying I divide my time the way we are taught, rather it is understanding the concept of finding balance. After all, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

While I was internalizing our lessons, I started to discover a lot about myself. While I have always been a voracious reader, I also watched a lot of television to "wind down" at night. It's amazing how fast a few hours go by when binge watching The Office or Vikings. I started to limit that time and use the reminder for things that I could feel satisfied after completed. Researching some topic of interest, spending more time with my wife and children, studying our ritual, or reaching out to a Brother. I started putting limits on my work as well, closing the laptop and leaving the office, setting away from office messages on my email on days off, responding to texts with I'll call you back tomorrow morning. What began to happen was essentially I found hours more every day I could put to better use.

Sometimes I still wish there were more hours in the day, but by getting rid of some of the superfluous items in our lives and focusing on what is really important, we can all extend our twenty-four inch gauge just a bit. Spend more quality time with the people in our lives that matter and participate in activities that feed our minds and our souls.


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.

The Bittersweet Lessons of the Hourglass

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Phillip Welshans

There is an old story that is thought to have originated with Sufi poets such as Rumi, and which was passed down to western readers via translations of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam that tells of a king in an Eastern kingdom long ago who offered a great reward if someone could tell him a piece of wisdom that would endure in good times and bad. There are various versions of this story but they all center around this king and his search for enduring wisdom. Eventually he asks a man known for wisdom to go and think about this request and if he could provide the monarch with a great piece of erudition, he would be greatly rewarded. 

The man goes off and sometime later returns to the court to present the king with his insight. The traditional version of this story states he handed the king a small box and when it was opened, it revealed a small ring with an inscription around the outer band. The king was perplexed and asked, incredulously, "Is this it?". The man nodded and said, "Put the ring on your finger and read the inscription."

The king did so, reading out, "This too shall pass."

The man said, "Wear this ring always and read the inscription frequently. Thus in times of great fortune and great sadness, you will always be reminded that those times are fleeting, and that this too shall pass."

The king was much impressed with the man's wisdom that would endure throughout life, and gave him his reward. 

This story has lasted throughout thousands of years of human history and has been referenced by many great thinkers and speakers. Abraham Lincoln told this story in a speech at the Wisconsin State Fair prior to being elected President of the United States. The subject matter was supposed to be agriculture, a topic worthy of most state fairs, but Lincoln took a less direct route in his speech. He used the story to illustrate the impermanence of life, in this case, for farmers who might enjoy a bumper harvest one year and drought or disease the next. In either case, those times do not last forever, and remembering that can provide chastity in the good times and comfort in the bad. 

For us as Masons, this story's moral is encapsulated in the symbol of the hourglass from the Master Mason lecture. As an emblem if human life, we can easily see "how swiftly the sands run, and how quickly our lives are coming to a close!" While in the present, we may be tempted to think the current hard times we endure or great fortune we enjoy will last forever, the hourglass tells us this is only an illusion, similar to how the sands in the hourglass pass almost imperceptibly through the machine. A day may seem like it lasts forever, but time marches on and in the end, proves that everything is temporary. 

I was recently reminded of this when my daughter turned 4. We held her birthday party on a recent Saturday afternoon. We'd decided to make it a blow-out because her first three birthdays were subdued due to the pandemic. We invited friends in the morning/afternoon and scheduled a nice dinner with family in the evening. At one point that afternoon we had 26 toddlers and their parents on our front lawn eating pizza and cupcakes, getting their faces painted (the kids, not the parents!), bouncing off each other like colliding asteroids in the bouncy house we rented, and going crazy when the pony we booked showed up dressed up like a unicorn. She'd chosen a Frozen-themed party and we have a photo of her on the unicorn dressed like Elsa, face painted, barefooted from the bouncy house. That evening we had family over to our home for a nice dinner and cake and ice cream for dessert. 

The weekend was a blur of frantic preparations, running to Party City (multiple times), picking up food, setting up games and praying the torrential rain of Friday would end by Saturday (it did). The party itself was chaos with all the kids, and I felt like it was both the longest and shortest two hours of my life. But that night after we had dinner and gathered around the birthday girl to sing "Happy Birthday" to her, I think on a subconscious level the lesson of the hourglass, and the story of the king, reached me. Life is impermanent, and she will never have another 4th birthday party again. The craziness and magic of that day will be remembered for a long time, but will never come around again. The stress of the days leading up to the party, the chaos of the party itself, and the joy of seeing her surrounded by her family who had come just to see and celebrate with her, is all temporary. Those moments, good and bad, slip away almost imperceptibly, and yet, we are surprised to find that in the short space of an hour, they're all exhausted. 

It is a bittersweet lesson we take from the hourglass in the lecture. Life is full of good and bad, but none of it lasts forever. So, we should seek to enjoy the former while it's here, and buckle down under the latter while it persists. For this too, we know, shall pass.


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.

Making a Case for Templarism

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Randy Sanders

When I petitioned York Rite years ago, I petitioned too early in my Masonic path. It wasn’t that I needed more time to learn my Blue Lodge lessons, it was that there existed too few learned companions that could teach the deep lessons. The same remains today, meaning in most cases I had to learn the lessons on my own and without any mentoring, just like in Blue Lodge. Fast forward to receiving my Orders in Knights Templar, and I was stunned at the words I heard, the amazing allegory, the beautiful charges to be a better man. And I held deep hope in my heart when I attended my first and second Commandry meetings which also turned out to be my last.

Why would they be my last? After all, I experienced sheer beauty and powerful imagery in receiving the orders. How can I make a case for Templarism if I myself became disillusioned over stale coffee and dragging business meetings? You know, the same stale coffee and dragging business meetings we endure in Blue Lodge? I experienced even worse in the Asylum. I listened to adult men argue over the placement of a ribbon or pants length on a uniform of no significance, argue over foot placement during extremely basic marching and maneuvering drills, and watched them wear funny hats in the name of a 150-ish-year-old tradition. A tradition supposedly connected to a centuries-old religious military order that quite possibly obtained and applied the spiritual teachings of the East.

Doesn’t sound like much reason yet, right? The meaning is lost on those focused on the outer trappings. That is partly my definition of outer trappings: physicality that inhibits passage into the inner workings of anything. Remember the lessons of the Entered Apprentice to not get caught up in the outside world, to subdue your passions so that you might shed the physical and thereby get on with the important stuff. Today’s Templars with a few exceptions lost their way, and we can bring life back into an organization with such beautiful lessons. We must be the ones who teach those lessons because those adept at teaching the lessons within the organization become scarce. There’s egotistical infighting at the leadership levels as recently exposed at the national level, there’s devolution into the unimportant worries of whether a uniform is worn correctly, or the hat has enough feathers, or the foot is lifted high enough while marching. It’s all allegory. It isn’t important except to those who never understood the allegory.

Knights Templar and Templarism is indeed worth saving, and we should make the effort. Templarism allegory demonstrates the 24-inch gauge by teaching us to work toward preparation and to balance our time. It teaches personal ritual by demonstrating preparing the uniform as an allegory of cleansing and preparing yourself to meditate or do inner work (see an excellent article or catch the YouTube reading of Personal Ritual by Brother Chuck Dunning). Templarism teaches the allegory of the righteous battle as a means toward working hard to find your higher self, and finally, Templarism parallels the journey toward enlightenment by the finding of the Lost Word. What? No lost word? Templarism calls it the Holy Grail.

Again, the lessons of Templarism, largely lost on most current Templars, continue to be worthy of saving. Templarism teaches a wonderful set of philosophical values and moral virtues. Templarism lessons extend well beyond the stale coffee, silly costumes, and stomping footwork for those willing to take that next allegorical marching step. The symbolism encompasses a contemplative path toward Light, and the allegories of the Orders demonstrate the inner workings of the Psyche, or Self, on its various cyclical journeys. Journeys that lead to the Divine. These remain powerful internal lessons we may preserve while reminding the leadership and ritualists that the external lessons are outer trappings that have trapped many unworthy Knights thus denying them the Grail. There are always deeper meanings to any Masonic body.


Randy and his wife Elyana live near St. Louis, Missouri, USA. Randy earned a bachelor's Degree in Chemistry with an emphasis in Biochemistry, and he works in Telecom IT management. He volunteers as a professional and personal mentor, NRA certified Chief Range Safety Officer, and enjoys competitive tactical pistol, rifle, and shotgun. He has 30-plus years of teaching Wing Chun Kung Fu, Chi Kung, and healing arts. Randy served as a Logistics Section Chief on two different United States federal Disaster Medical Assistance Teams over a 12-year span. Randy is a 32nd-degree KCCH and Knight Templar. His Masonic bio includes past Lodge Education Officer for two symbolic lodges, Founder of the Wentzville Lodge Book Club, member of the Grand Lodge of Missouri Education Committee, Sovereign Master of the E. F. Coonrod AMD Council No. 493, Co-Librarian of the Scottish Rite Valley of St. Louis, Clerk for the Academy of Reflection through the Valley of Guthrie, and a Facilitator for the Masonic Legacy Society. Randy is a founding administrator for Refracted Light, a full contributor to Midnight Freemasons, and an international presenter on esoteric topics. Randy hosts an open ongoing weekly Masonic virtual Happy Hour on Friday evenings. Randy is an accomplished home chef, a certified barbecue judge, raises Great Pyrenees dogs, and enjoys travel and philosophy.

Preserving Our Legacy: Past Master Jewels

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Jim Stapleton

After a Worshipful Master has served their Lodge and a qualified successor has been installed in their place, the Brother becomes the Lodge’s new junior Past Master. Even though Past Masters don’t have the same authority as Worshipful Masters, Past Masters continue to have a special role in their Lodges. They help to advise the Worshipful Master. The wise counsel whispered by a Past Master is immensely important. They also often serve on various Lodge committees and fill Trustee roles. Past Masters are called upon to head up committees of investigation and help to guard the West Gate. A dedicated cadre of Past Masters is truly necessary for a Lodge to function.

In many jurisdictions, an outgoing Master is presented with a Past Master jewel. This is a way for the Brethren to demonstrate their appreciation and acknowledge the work performed by the Past Master. These jewels are often beautifully ornate pieces. Past Master jewels might be made of a variety of materials, but a number of them are made of gold or silver. Sometimes they are even embellished with precious gemstones. The name of the Brother and the year(s) during which they served as Master are frequently engraved on the back of the medal. Regardless of the jewel’s intrinsic worth or value, it surely has deep sentimental meaning for the Brother.

In my Lodge, as well as many others, the Past Master jewel is technically on loan to the Brother. The idea is that the jewel stays in the Past Master’s possession while they are alive. However, when the Brother is called from Labor and goes to the Lodge on High, the jewel should be returned to the Lodge. These valuable objects can then be cleaned and restored so that they can be presented to a future Past Master. Engraving on the back of the jewel gets updated to show which individuals were entrusted with it, along with the years they served as Master. This is a way to preserve a lodge’s financial resources because it isn’t necessary to constantly buy new jewels every year. More importantly, it is a physical manifestation of the interconnectedness of the Lodge’s previous Past Masters.

This is why it breaks my heart to scroll through online sites that sell used Past Master jewels. Recently, a Brother pointed out that a Past Master jewel from one of the Lodges that merged to form my Lodge was up for sale on a popular bidding site. The antique dealer that was selling the jewel wanted a small fortune. It felt like the medal was being held, hostage! I emailed the seller to say that it was a piece of Lodge history and that those jewels are actually the property of their Lodges. Sadly, (but not surprisingly) I never received a response.

Past Masters that belong to Lodges that refurbish the jewels should make it clear to their families that the jewels are to be returned to the Lodge after their passing. Family members that don’t know of this custom cannot be expected to know any better. Brothers can even add the wish to have the jewel returned to the Lodge in their wills. That way, their loved ones can ensure that these pieces of history are brought back to the Lodge to live on for future Masonic generations.

As Masons, we are stewards of our Lodge resources and have a responsibility to our future members. What we have in Freemasonry today is because we had fraternal ancestors that worked to build for the future. In the same manner, we need to do what we can to ensure that future generations can also enjoy the Fraternity and appreciate the historical connections to past Brethren.


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

“The Shade of Trees They’ll Never Sit Under”: Investing for the Lodge and Your Future Brethren - Part 2

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Phillip Welshans

Part 2: Defining the Parameters

This material has been prepared for general and educational purposes only. This material does not provide recommendations concerning investments, investment strategies, or account types. It is not individualized to the needs of any specific investor and is not intended to suggest that any particular investment action is appropriate for you, nor is it intended to serve as the primary basis for investment decision-making. Any tax-related discussion contained in this material, including any attachments/links, is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding any tax penalties or (ii) promoting, marketing, or recommending to any other party any transaction or matter addressed herein. Please consult your independent legal counsel and/or tax professional regarding any legal or tax issues raised in this material. All investments involve risk, including possible loss of principal.

Before we get into the weeds of managing lodge investments, it's probably helpful to start at a 30,000-foot view and define the parameters of our discussion. Investing, like most fields, has a dictionary of technical jargon and terminology that is accessible to all but understood by the few who take the time to learn (sound familiar?). For example, many people know what a stock is, per se, but not what it's for or how its price and value are related.1 A stock is something you can buy and sell, but so what?

This is also because I don't want to simply assume every brother reading this is starting with the same level of knowledge. If you're new to investing, either in your personal life or in your involvement with your lodge (or both), it will do you no good whatsoever if I jump right in with jargon and wrongly assume everyone spends every working day around this stuff like I do. So, this post starts with some basics. If you're reading this and saying to yourself, "I know this already," that's cool; skip ahead to other posts and you'll be fine.

Defining Investing

Investing is buying a security or financial interest in a venture or business that is designed to generate a return on investment (ROI) for the investor. It is one of the fundamental means by which capital is allocated in a capitalist society. There are people who need capital to start a business, grow a business, build a prototype, etc. Existing companies need additional capital to expand their operations or fund new capital expenditures ("capex"). They can all access that capital through a variety of means, not least of which is attracting investors, both public and private.2

Generally, in our discussion, we will think of investing as buying and selling securities in companies, funds, and so on, rather than buying direct interests in businesses. The reason for this is ease of use and low cost. Without getting too far ahead of ourselves, it's not practical for most lodges to expend the time, energy, and money needed to make direct investments in businesses or ventures. Especially when the huge, highly liquid secondary markets are easier and cheaper to access than ever.3 Most brokerage firms like Fidelity or Vanguard or Schwab offer every customer commission-free trades on thousands of mutual funds and ETFs. For the vast majority of lodges out there, your investment management will occur almost solely in the secondary markets.

Individual & Institution: The Two Types of Investors

Just as there are dog people and cat people, Dodge people and Chevy people, fries people, and onion rings people, so too there are two types of investors: individuals and institutions. Individuals are you and me, sitting at our desk or computer, buying and selling stocks. You may have heard the term "retail" investor bandied about as well, and generally this and "individual" investor are interchangeable so we'll use them that way here too. Institutional investors are large organizations such as corporate or government pension funds, asset managers, university endowments, sovereign wealth funds, insurance companies, and banks. These investors are giant players in the markets with, in most cases, (tens of) billions of dollars to throw around. For example, the biggest pension fund, Japan's government pension scheme, has something like $1.5 TRILLION dollars under management.

Retail investors tend to have smaller accounts individually4, although by some measurements still makeup about half of all assets under management. They also tend to be less "sophisticated" investors, seeing as how most retail investors' day jobs are not in investing or finance broadly.5 For many retail investors, investing is a hobby or a task they have to perform in order to plan for retirement.

You may (or may not) be surprised to learn that Grand Lodges are considered institutional investors. Many Grand Lodges have accrued large holdings of real estate and other assets over their many decades of existence, and they've created foundations and endowments to manage those assets. If you attend your Grand Lodge's annual or semiannual communications, there is probably a portion of the proceedings and information packet dedicated to the performance of these accounts.6 Almost certainly your Grand Lodge, via an internally formed investment or finance committee, has hired a professional financial advisor to manage those assets full-time, and that advisor will usually provide regular updates to whatever committee or other body has been tasked with keeping tabs on these substantial sums of money.

But what about your lodge? Individual lodges share traits of both individuals and institutions. On the one hand, most lodges' assets will be closer to those of an average individual investor (let's say <$1 million as a round number) than an institution. Often a lodge's investments will not even be the biggest asset it owns, that being the lodge building and/or land itself. Moreover, a lodge may not have a brother or brethren who are active members and have any sort of investment knowledge. Therefore, as an "investor," the lodge may be fairly unsophisticated. That's OK! Not every lodge needs to have a Warren Buffett in-house in order to successfully manage their investments. We'll talk more about why that is and what steps those lodges might want to take later on.

Yet in other ways, it's very much an institution. For one, it's a group of people pooling resources into a single entity. Many lodges are also set up as non-profits and are therefore tax-exempt, which has implications for how finances are managed and differ from retail investors, who must pay annoying things like capital gains taxes, income taxes on dividends, and property taxes. And the time horizon for a lodge is typically much longer than an individual. This is arguably the most important difference and is one I consider to be important enough that it's worth spending more time on in a future post.

My personal view is that it makes the most logical and prudent sense to approach most aspects of your lodge's investment management from the standpoint of an institutional investor. In this case, I think it's prudent to ignore the number of assets your lodge owns and focus instead on the implications for risk management and asset allocation that come with thinking like an institution. So from here on, I will be assuming we're thinking about your lodge as an institution and not as an individual investor.


So, after all that, where are we? In sum, these posts are going to be focusing on constituent lodge investment management, but through the prism of an institutional investor. We'll be confining our discussions to primarily public secondary markets, as this is where the vast majority of constituent lodges will be investing, but we will address other markets and assets as appropriate. And this will be done in layman's terms as much as possible, with plenty of footnotes and definitions of technical terms as needed.

  1. Broadly, a stock is a claim on the cash flows of a business, extending out into the future. The value of a stock is those future cash flows (profits and any dividends paid), discounted back in time to today at some rate called, unsurprisingly, the "discount rate." They are discounted because a.) they're uncertain and not guaranteed and, b.) a dollar that might be received sometime in the future should implicitly be worth less than a dollar received today.
  2. We will spend some time in a future post talking about the difference between public and private financial markets, how they fit into investment management, and how you may want to think about each as you monitor your lodge's assets over time. We'll get there, I promise!
  3. There are "primary markets," which is where investors with large amounts of money and expertise invest directly in businesses. An example would be a venture capital fund making a large direct investment in a Silicon Valley startup. Another common example is an initial public offering (IPO), where a private company offers shares of stock to the public. The secondary markets are where investors trade already existing securities. If you buy/sell a stock or bond or share of a mutual fund, you're participating in the secondary market. The New York Stock Exchange is a secondary market.
  4. Very wealthy individuals can be an exception to this rule. Lots of high-net-worth individuals (HNW) will have access to investment vehicles with large minimum requirements. I'm thinking mainly of hedge funds, closed end funds, and investment in private equity shops as limited partners. Those with enough wealth will create so-called "family offices" where a small team of analysts and portfolio managers will manage a family fortune full time. These family offices are kind of in a no-man's land; they're not really retail but they're also not considered institutions, strictly speaking. But practically speaking they're often treated as institutional investors. The wealthier you are, the more you behave and are treated like an institution within markets.
  5. The use of the word "sophisticated" here was coined by the investment management industry, and is more than a little pejorative in my view. It's a way for the pros to put more distance between themselves and the masses of individual investors by making themselves seem smarter than some of us really are. Just my two cents. Plenty of "sophisticated" investors go bust every year while prudent, yet unsophisticated investors bank solid returns.
  6. Many, but not all, Grand Lodges keep this information close to the vest and are loathe to disclose anything but the highest level of information. Lack of disclosure just breeds speculation in my opinion, even more so when you're talking about an organization made up of people who are already promising to keep the secrets communicated to us.

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.

Moving Forward With the Next Phase

by Senior Midnight Freemason Contributor
Gregory J. Knott 33° 

As I write this article, I am having my first day of retirement. I recently retired from the University of Illinois with a combined 35 years of service, with my last role being that of Secretary of the Board of Trustees and Secretary of the University.

Most of my career was spent in various administrative roles in areas such as finance, budgets, human resources, facilities management and finally working with the University Board Chair and University President on all the affairs of the board of trustees.

As I reflect back, I couldn’t have achieved all that I was able to without the support of so many people. I have to begin by thanking my parents, Jack, and Barbara Knott, they sacrificed time and again to ensure that I was able to get through college, help me with buying cars, moving countless times, etc. They always supported me without question.

My wife Brooke, has been an endless rock of support. Being in administration in higher education isn’t always easy with the endless amount of personalities and issues that confront colleges today. Brooke has always been there for me, offering me support and a willing ear when needed. Nothing I have accomplished would have been possible without her.

Riley, my daughter, and Hayden, my son, also consistently encouraged me along the way. Like most parents, I wanted the best for them and always sought ways to help them succeed. They were also part of the support, I needed to stay so successful. They also helped provide me with the motivation to ensure they had everything they needed to succeed in life as well.

Recently, as Secretary of the University, I was able to sign my daughter's second college diploma from the University of Illinois. This actually makes three diplomas in total that I have signed for her, as she was a student at Parkland College when I was the Chairman of the Board of Trustees. Not sure how many dads get to do this, but none the least to say I am very humbled in getting to have done so.

In the workplace, I have had so many great mentors who encouraged me along the way in my journey. For fear of leaving some of them out, I won’t list them by name, but want to just say thank you! One of my first mentors, when I was a student worker, consistently challenged me, always giving me more than I thought I was capable of, but encouraging and coaching me and letting me see that I had skills that I didn’t know were possible. Even though it is more than 30 years later since that job, we still keep in touch and he has been a consistent cheerleader throughout my career.

I don’t know if it was fate or not, but it just seemed I was able to find one mentor after another in my career that made a positive impact on me. To each of them, I am so grateful for everything they did for me.

As I move into this next phase called retirement, I don’t entirely know what is ahead yet. But that is the part I am looking forward to, the new challenges and adventures that may come my way. Initially, I am going to take some much-needed time away from a 40-hour structured work week. I will be doing some substitute teaching in my local high school, and I am looking forward to being around the young people of today. I have often thought of the 24-inch gauge and how it applies to our daily life. I will be adjusting mine and looking forward to the future.

As we learn through the masonic degrees, life is a journey, where we gain more working tools and knowledge along the way. We are “traveling upon the level of time to that undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns.”.

I wish you well on your journey.


Gregory J. Knott, 33° is a founding member and Senior Contributor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He is a Past Master of St. Joseph Lodge No. 970 in St. Joseph (IL) and a plural member of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL) and Naval Lodge No. 4 in Washington, DC. He’s a member of the Scottish Rite, the York Rite, Eastern Star and is the Charter Secretary of the Illini High Twelve Club No. 768 in Champaign-Urbana. He is also a member of ANSAR Shrine (IL) and the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees. Greg serves on the Board of Directors of The Masonic Society and is a member of the Scottish Rite Research Society and The Philathes Society. He is a charter member of a new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter U.D., and serves as its Secretary. Greg is very involved in Boy Scouts—an Eagle Scout himself, he is a member of the National Association of Masonic Scouters.