Is Freemasonry Magic?

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Patrick Dey

We will rule out the responses of non-esoteric Masons, who would give the knee-jerk reaction of: No! Never! That aside, every so often I hear a Mason or read something by a Mason that argues that Freemasonry is magic. Not that the fraternity, its rituals, its teachings, et cetera are some card trick or sleight of hand, but really is magic. This has long bothered me.

Firstly, to address this, we need some sort of working definition of what magic is, or at least understand what are the processes and operations involved in magic to compare to Masonry. There are endless definitions, but ultimately we will acknowledge that magic is some process of harnessing and wielding supernatural powers. Personally, I work from a spirit model: magic is the process of working with spirits, disembodies intelligences, conscious immaterial entities the magician will invoke and conjure (Latin, conjurare, to swear together, i.e. make a pact — even the term exorcism is similar, but comes from Greek, exorkismos, to bind with an oath), and once in agreement with the spirit, the spirit will fulfill the magician’s petitions. Even in an animist model, every material thing has a spirit, a being residing within it that will be bound to the magician’s will. We even see this sort of thing in the Catholic Mass, wherein exorcising the water (i.e. making Holy Water), the priest will exorcise the “creature of salt” before putting salt into the water. We see something similar in alchemical ideas, such as the spirit of mercury, the spirit of the fire (i.e. salamander), et al. Even the way we talk about alcohol, a “spirit,” is directly related to this animist view of a spirit living in a substance.

Throughout history, we see time and time again magic being a ritualistic operation of coercing, binding, and making use of spirits to achieve things that otherwise cannot be achieved through normal, natural means. Sometimes it is super simple and really does not involve much effort. For instance, the Psalms have regularly been employed in a great deal of European magic, and in many cases, just reciting a Psalm is sufficient, depending on what the magician is trying to achieve. If you want to protect your pregnant wife and ensure a safe delivery, a daily recitation of Psalm 1 is perfect. If you want to make more friends, recite Psalm 133 daily. The Psalms are prayers that were made by mighty and holy patriarchs, and the Lord listened to those prayers, so they are believed to hold great efficacy on their own. Prayer is an essential aspect of any magical practice. (For more on Psalm magic, see my essay in Hadean Press’s Conjure Codex, Vol. 5, Black Edition, 2022).

Then one can go much further. One can go full in and conduct the complete eighteen-month-long ritual of the Abramelin, conjuring their Holy Guardian Angel and binding it to their head. Or maybe a little easier is the Heptameron and conjuring the Djinn Kings via the seven Archangels. Or they can just make some magical charms, endowed with powers by virtue of certain spirits or astrological aspects, and never have to conjure any spirits. It depends on what the magician wants to do, how far they want to go, and how badly they want it.

Yes, there is ritual involved, like Freemasonry has ritual involved. In magic, it is usually a lot of prayers, invocations of sacred names, a lot of commands to the spirits, et cetera. But it is not really the same thing as Masonic ritual. In magic, the ritual has a certain function in conjuring and binding spirits for the magician’s use. You first need to purify yourself, which can be weeks-long dieting, fasting, abstaining from sex and masturbation, abstaining from alcohol, being honest in business dealings, confessing sins, et al. All the implements in the ritual need a certain level of consecration. For instance, in the Heptameron the Mass of the Holy Spirit should be conducted over the sword and other implements that will be used in the ritual. Then there are offerings to the spirits, a calling of the spirits to come forth, and if they do not, a harsher invocation to coerce them to come forth, a welcoming of the spirits, a binding of them so that they don’t leave before you are done with them, then your petition to be given to them, and so forth. Sometimes it seems that the easiest way to get what you want is to not do magic. It can be exhausting, and it still does not always work. The spirits may show up, but it doesn’t mean they want to listen to you.

Is Freemasonry anything like this? No, and such would probably actually scare away a lot of guys if we were calling angels and all their grandeur and terror into the Lodge room. Seriously, angels are pretty scary. Are there similarities between Masonic rituals and any number of magical rituals? Sure, because it is ritual, but not because the two are inherently related or even the same thing.

For instance, there are some who argue that magical rituals should all be memorized, and that may be an option for some, but really, I don’t think many people memorize the entirety of any magical ritual. And historically we know it was not all memorized. Hence why we have grimoires: books of magic for the magician to reference and read. At this point in my life, I practically have the exorcism of the fire and incense memorized because anytime I go to pray, I light incense and recite this exorcism, though I usually have my Key of Solomon beside me regardless. Do I have the entire Mass of the Holy Spirit memorized? No. Not even close, and it is not something I regularly do, so I don’t really have any interest in memorizing it. I mean, watch any Catholic priest do the Mass and you will notice they tend to have a cheat sheet next to them on the altar.

I have heard it argued that memorizing rituals helps our memory, like magic. Yeah… here’s the thing, there is a grimoire to assist memory: the Ars Notoria, a grimoire for rapid learning. And good memory has always been viewed as kind of magical, something Francis Yates traces in her The Art of Memory. But just doing root memorization is not the same as how Ars Notoria does it, which is practically learning by osmosis. Literally, you will sleep with the book you are learning from under your pillow. And you certainly don’t memorize the Ars Notoria, if one ever could.

I have heard it argued that Freemasonry is “symbolic magic” — i.e. it is magic, but done symbolically. I really don’t know what that means. The point of magic is to achieve something, be it to get money, to receive a prophecy, to destroy one’s enemies (e.g. half the Psalms), to cure an ailment, et al. If you are not actually achieving something, then it isn’t magic. It’s what we call LARPing (live-action role play).

I have heard it argued as well that the Masonic ritual raises our consciousness. Eh… I guess. I won’t deny one can and will have profound spiritual experiences in Freemasonry. I certainly did, but that is not necessarily magic. Meditation can “raise consciousness,” so can drugs, and so can therapy. But that is not necessarily magic. It can be “magical,” but not “magic.” The Order of the Temple, especially during the fifth libation is “magical,” but certainly not magic.

I could probably go on and on about every last thing that really differentiates Freemasonry from magic. My point is that, just because we regard our experiences in Freemasonry to be powerful, life-changing, and spiritually profound, this does not mean it is necessarily magic. If you went through the Degrees of Masonry with the intent of becoming a millionaire, and after you became a Master Mason you miraculously received a vast inheritance, then yeah, somehow that person turned their Masonic initiation into a magical ritual without anyone knowing it. Otherwise, it is just a profound experience, one that alters our lives forever. But it is not magic


 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.

The Ship of Theseus and the Masonic Lodge

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Jim Stapleton

The Ship of Theseus is a philosophical paradox that raises questions about identity, continuity, and the nature of existence. The thought experiment challenges our understanding of what it means for an object, person, or organization to retain its identity over time.

Plutarch posed the paradox where Theseus, a mythical Greek hero, had a ship that was eventually kept as a museum. As the planks started to rot over time, they were replaced with new ones. If all of the planks were replaced, is the ship still the same ship as the one Theseus initially owned? If it is no longer the same ship, at what point along the way did the transformation happen?

The Ship of Theseus challenges our notions of identity. We often associate identity as something that is static and unchanging. However, this paradox causes us to reconsider this assumption. Is a ship that is completely remade of new components the same as the original as long as its function, purpose, and design, are preserved? Or is the ship the same if it maintains temporal continuity connecting its past and present states?

Now, let's draw a parallel between the Ship of Theseus paradox and a Masonic Lodge. Each Masonic Lodge has its own traditions and membership. The Lodge itself can be seen as an entity with its own identity, just like the ship.

Similar to the Ship of Theseus, a Masonic Lodge can experience transition. Lodge membership changes over time as new members join and others leave or pass to the Lodge on High. Lodge leadership changes with each Worshipful Master. A Lodge's physical location could also change.

The paradox arises when we consider that, just like the ship, the lodge can experience a complete turnover of its members and leadership. Over time, every member who was part of the original Lodge may no longer be there, and new members have taken their place. So, is the Lodge still the same Masonic Lodge after several decades?

Every member of the Craft should think about how their presence and activities within a Lodge affects the overall identity of the organization. An individual member’s action (or inaction) can have significant repercussions that impact the very fabric of the Lodge.


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.

Kung Fu Principles to Masonic Esoteric Philosophy - Part 1

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Randy Sanders

This begins a 5-part series applying Masonic principles and esoteric concepts to Eastern martial arts, specifically Wing Chun Kung Fu.  We will only touch on the fighting theory but then focus on applied philosophy.

Wing Chun Kung Fu simplifies as a fighting system derived from Snake and White Crane systems as its base.  It was originally based on Buddhist Shaolin systems and was refined in the Taoist Wu Tang temple.  This well documented lineage history makes my brief description an injustice to the beautiful history of the Shaolin temple, the Wu Tang temple, Snake, White Crane, and Wing Chun systems.  This series of papers narrows the focus to the core Wing Chun principles of Centerline, Facing, Immoveable Elbow, Economy of Motion, and Simultaneous Attack and Defense, and we will match this Eastern theory to Western Philosophy.

With this first installment, let’s look at the Centerline principle.  If we strike an opponent’s vertical centerline there’s no means for our opponent to spin or rotate the body in such a way as to minimize impact.  If we focus the strike from our own centerline and are always aware of our own centerline, then our movements are either solid or fluid at our choosing.

This same vertical center line concept applies to philosophy and many Western traditions and explained as the Middle Pillar of the Cabbalistic Tree of Life.  The core of your body relates to the core of your being and connects you to your true self.  We see the parallels go a step further by looking at the true actions or true beliefs of any person must be genuine if coming from the aligned gut, heart, and head.  Morality is a different subject, so even though the person may be speaking or acting from his core, the alignment may not mean those genuine actions or expressions translate to good intentions toward us.  Bad actors may still act from a bad place and be genuine in their intentions.  If that intention is to harm others or act in a complete disregard to morality, we label that person and action accordingly.

Holding true to a moral structure of thoughts and actions relates to the alignment of our core being.  A Masonic moral structure based upon the Virtues and Pillars should be continually contemplated and refocused so as to stay in alignment with our own core values.  Our own practice of these virtues, pillars, and other Masonic lessons become the reason we are the Elu, the elect, the ones set apart from the rest of the community.  We may never be recognized, or we may climb to the heights of fame.  The centerline, or middle pillar, or core values, separates us as Masons, and we tend to celebrate that mystic tie in every lodge when we might share a passage that begins with “Behold…”

The Tree of Life, when superimposed over a drawing of the human body is often referred to as “esoteric anatomy” which, in my opinion, does a grave injustice to the subject of esoteric anatomy by narrowing the scope to only that superimposition of images.  However, for the purposes here let us consider that the middle pillar Sephirot can correspond to some Eastern concepts of energy centers, or chakras, within the body.  Wing Chun only focuses on one energy center initially, and that is the lower Dan Tien which is about an inch below our navel.  The focus is not to say the others are ignored, but that lower energy center below the navel also corresponds to the crossover point from the (upper) left hand to the (lower) right foot, and conversely the right hand to left foot.  This makes a giant X with the arms and legs spread wide.  Anatomically, we are discussing the lower 5 lumbar vertebrae and their connection to the psoas major and iliopsoas muscularly corresponding to our center of gravity, center of the body, center of that cross connection, etc.

The crossover point becomes our focus here as it demonstrates the location on the center line, or middle pillar for our purposes.  When we bend our knees a few degrees, we lower that point to correspond with our body’s center of gravity, and the options of motion open widely to us.  Boxer’s footwork, exercise classes, Yoga, weight lifting, all stress the importance of proper stance and a very slightly bent knee in most cases.  Pilates formed an entire system of exercise around that same core. 

Western traditions may not lower the center of gravity by bending the legs, but the concept of sinking corresponds to the same common method of moving into a meditation state by relaxing and feeling gravity gently pull against your body.  The Western approach in this manner aids the practitioner in getting in touch with his own body, and the lessons parallel the more Buddhist approach to learning how to focus on the body by an outward-in approach.  This, as opposed to the Taoist approach of focusing inwardly first, then bringing that internal awareness outward.  Both have distinct parallels in Western traditions, and Western, Buddhist, and Taoist approaches achieve similar results over time.  

Notice parallels in guided imagery of imagining a sphere of light above your head then drawing that light down into the body, whereas a Taoist method may initially work with the same conceptual sphere of light at your center, on your centerline.  Both Western and Eastern teachings then use the Middle Pillar, or Centerline, as the directional focus of how that light is imagined.

Let us put this into practice:  The Centerline or Center Line principle is further explained as the central line, that is, the shortest distance between your vertical center line and your opponent’s vertical center line.  This concept is not only for fighting, but the mystic tie that binds as well.  Imagine we sit in lodge, and we begin to draw imaginary connected lines between our own lower gut center and each of the Brethren sitting around us.  This looks like a spider web of sorts when all the Brothers are connected to each other.  Now let’s imagine that same spider web connecting our hearts, and other spider web connecting our brains.  Now we can turn the individual pieces (gut, heart, head) into a column, or vertical center line, connecting to all the other vertical center lines of our lodge Brothers.  This exercise may not happen quickly, and only with practice can we build up to keeping multiple lines in our imagination consistently.

Our connectivity to each other isn’t imaginary, rather, we feel good when we sit in lodge together.  We raise our feeling of brotherhood, our mystic tie that binds, spreading the cement, whatever we call it.  This tangible feeling brings us together while keeping our individuality, and we celebrate that connectedness with fellowship events and festive boards.  The concept of our unique center, center line, and how it relates to others should drive us to continue our efforts toward The Great Work.


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.

A note from the managing Editor

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners

It has been a goal of the Midnight Freemasons blog to provide quality content that can be used for Masonic Education.  In fact, Friday's article by Bro. Randy Sanders will be article two thousand that has appeared on the blog.  As the current managing editor, I have endeavored to make sure that there is an article on the blog every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for the past few years since I assumed this role. Unfortunately, due to personal, work and Masonic commitments, I am no longer able to continue with this schedule.  

After consulting with the blog’s founder, Todd Creason, I am announcing that starting next week, the blog will only be publishing content every Wednesday.  What this means for you is that if there is no new content, then there will be no new articles.  However it is my hope that with the reduction in publishing, this will never be an issue.

It’s possible that we go back to our original publishing schedule sometime in the future should my commitments lessen, but for right now, this is the best decision for myself. I am hopefully it will help the regular contributors as well. 

I want to thank all of you that read the blog. I have nothing but the utmost gratitude for you, and I know that the contributors feel the same way. 

Sincerely and Fraternally, 
WB Darin Lahners

The Policy of Truth

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners

Policy of Truth is the third single off Depeche Mode's seminal album, Violator. It was released on May 7, 1990. It reached number 15 on Billboard's US Hot 100, and number 1 on the US Alternative Airplay charts. The song is about living with the consequences of being untruthful. The song begins with the below lyrics:

You had something to hide
Should have hidden it, shouldn't you?
Now you're not satisfied
With what you're being put through
It's just time to pay the price
For not listening to advice
And deciding in your youth
On the policy of truth

In our First Degree, we are taught that the tenets of a Mason's profession are brotherly love, relief and truth. Furthermore, that "Truth is a divine attribute, and the foundation of every virtue. To be good and true is the first lesson we are taught in Masonry. On this theme we contemplate, and by its dictates endeavor to regulate our conduct.  Hence, while influenced by this principle, hypocrisy and deceit are unknown among us, sincerity and plain dealing distinguish us, and the heart and tongue join in promoting each other's welfare and rejoicing in each other's prosperity." 

If truth is so important to us as a Fraternity, then why are we sworn to secrecy when it comes to not revealing our "Secrets"?  Each degree obligation that we take has some part within it where we swear to always hele, ever conceal, and never reveal any of the secret arts. parts, or points of the Hidden Mysteries of Freemasonry.  In most jurisdictions, these "secrets" are our modes of recognition.  However, how can we as Masons be "Good and True" after swearing to never reveal things from our ritual?  Does our obligation supersede our first lesson?

From a very pragmatic point of view, assuming our ritual was heavily influenced by or directly borrowed by the rituals being practiced in the Operative Guilds from which Modern Freemasonry sprung, then the idea of secrecy becomes clear.  During the Middle Ages, while our operative brethren were building the Castles and Cathedrals throughout Europe, someone impersonating a Mason could potentially armed with the knowledge of the modes of recognition might infiltrate a work site.  This person, called a Cowan, would usually be a stonemason who had not served an apprenticeship.  It is possible that others who were completely unfamiliar with Stone Masonry could attempt to infiltrate the work sites as well, however I think that their lack of knowledge would quickly show them to be imposters. A Cowan, however, would be harder to spot because they would be able to perform the work and thereby be entitled to wages.  So, it was imperative for our Operative Brethren to ensure that their livelihood was protected from these individuals, as they would be a direct threat to their incomes.  

Up until the dawn of the internet, there were various exposes which would be written where our secrets were revealed, and we have a Fraternity suffered from the most famous, which was the Morgan Affair.  We suffered not from William Morgan exposing our "secrets" but from the reaction to the mysterious disappearance of Morgan after he had threatened to do so. While many believe that the Morgan Affair was the catalyst for Anti-Masonic rhetoric in the United States, Dr. Thomas S Roy noted in his work: Stalwart Builders: A History of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachussetts, 1733-1970 that there was already a tremendous belief in conspiracy theories regarding Freemasonry.  He noted that in 1820s there was a belief that:

"Every untoward event that disrupted mankind was blamed upon Freemasonry. It was secret, and therefore, men said, must be conspiring against society. The Masons were considered responsible for the French Revolution and its terrors. They were supposed to be in collaboration with a society known as the Illuminati, which was accused of being conspiratorial in its designs…"

Isn't it interesting that almost 200 years after the Morgan Affair that the above is still perpetuated by those who believe that Freemasonry is some nefarious organization?  

Many Grand Lodges will tell you that the best way to combat Conspiracy Theories is to be as public as possible, holding open houses and being involved in your community.  While I do not disagree with such, I think we must understand why we have secrecy.  Since the only real value that having our "secrets" is that it is an exercise in Trust.  We swear secrecy to not reveal the things which are used to identify us "in the dark as well as the light", and we feel that we can trust a stranger because they have taken the same obligations as we have. In most cases, in my own experience, this is an absolute truth.  Unfortunately, there are some cases where men will pretend to be a Freemason and use this for their own material gain by scamming brethren out of money for promises of goods, most often on social media.  

Can Freemasonry be good and true when it purposely hides things from the rest of the population? Let's be honest, the things that we hide can easily be found on the internet.  The thing that makes us Freemasons is not our secrets, but rather our shared initiatic experience.  It is an idea that every other Freemason that we have met has undergone the same experiences in their degrees that you have undergone in yours.  Those that feel that these experiences are transformative and spiritual are those that I have found affinity with.  Those that decide that Freemasonry begins and ends with a gavel are those that I feel are better served by demitting themselves from our Fraternity.  Those that memorize the ritual but don't think about the words and what they mean and who don't try to apply our lessons into their own lives, those are those that I pity.  How can you memorize something but not practice it?  Is not being good and true being someone that not only knows our ritual but tries to exemplify it their daily lives?  

Yet, I can go on social media and see brethren that fit the above category. Raise your hand if you've seen a brother post something ignorant on social media about those women who want to be Freemasons, who dare to practice something that has value for all of humanity, to practice something that is as beneficial for a woman as it is for a man.  I'm counting and I see a lot of hands raised.  Raise your hand again if you have seen a social media discussion regarding the subject of homosexual men being Freemasons, or the idea of a transgender man becoming a Freemason, and the reactions are viler and quite frankly sometimes bordering on unmasonic behavior.  I believe that when we do not act according to Masonic values, when we do not treat those that are not Freemasons with brotherly love or what I would call empathy is when we are not following the policy of truth.

When we do not practice empathy, when we decide to hate others on the basis of their skin color, sexuality or gender, we are not being Good and True.  It is my belief that the Grand Architect has a design on the trestle board for everyone.  My design is different than yours.  At the end of the day, we are regardless of our skin color, sexuality or gender still of the same stock.  We are all human.  Each of us have these inalienable rights as defined by the Declaration of Independence as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but most importantly that all men are born equal.  Do you think that the authors of the Declaration of Independence meant that only men are equal?  That women are inferior?  I do not believe this for a moment.  I believe that it means all of mankind. 

Freemasonry has for over 300 years for better or worse been promoting the belief that all men are equal in the eyes of G-d, that we are all on the level, that we have more in common than that which divides us, that we can operate in a lodge, govern ourselves and sit in harmony with each other without regard to color, religion, political affiliation, and sexuality.  If you are unable to believe this, then I ask you to look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself if you are following a policy of truth.  If you are a Freemason who is incapable of empathy, if you are incapable of acting upon the square with others who have a different color of skin, sexuality or gender identity than we have, then do us a favor and demit.  We don't want you and we certainly don't need you.  You are the real Cowan.  Freemasonry is at its essence the practice of the Golden Rule.  Treating others as we ourselves want to be treated is the core of being empathetic.  

There are people that want to impose their will, their beliefs and morality upon others and we as Freemasons need to understand that we will be in their crosshairs and continue to be in their crosshairs because we are a threat to them. It is the same reason as to why Freemasonry was targeted by the Nazis and Fascists, because Freemasonry is antithetical to the beliefs of these regimes.  There are those who are going to champion human rights and those who do are a threat to those who do not want all humans to have rights.  Those who do not want all humans to have rights are going to do whatever they can to prevent them from having rights. Freemasonry is and has always been on the side of Truth.  We can either choose to follow the policy of Truth that our ritual lays out for us, and live it, or we can choose not to.  For those that chose not to, I only ask this:  If we are first made a Freemason in our hearts, then is it possible for one that does not have a heart to be a Freemason?  


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

Membership Retention: Community & Curing Isolation

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Patrick Dey

Some years ago I listened to a presentation by a Grand Lodge Officer discussing membership retention and declining membership numbers in general. He is a Baby Boomer, which means he does not and probably never could understand Millennials or Gen Z, and that is not his fault; older generations never fully understand younger generations. It just tends to work that way. The world is supposed to change, and it is going to change, and we are not always going to understand it.

One thing he said that Masonry provides that young men are looking is “community.” Really? We are humans and we naturally seek communion with other humans. But in this digital era, from a very young age, many young men found and formed communities online. And there is nothing wrong with having online friends, but there is still nonetheless something isolating about online communities. It is great for that immediate gratification of having an interaction with another person, and it is great for sharing ideas and resources. But quickly the realization sets in that these are not people you know in-person, that these people have likely adopted an online-persona that you interact with and not necessarily the same person in real life… these make the feeling of a traditional community — the kind of community our biology craves — feel further away, more fleeting, transient, and just as fake as our online personas. It makes it feel all the more isolating.

That is one thing many younger people feel these days: isolation. The feeling of isolation is almost crippling, with record numbers of people on antidepressant medications, in therapy, et cetera. The phenomenon of increasing loneliness in the modern world is a reality. It’s not just social media, which we can blame all we want, but that does nothing. It used to be that after work we might socialize with coworkers at the bar or go get dinner with each other and bring our spouses. Online work has become more common and is ever more common in this post-pandemic world to work remotely. Many do not even meet their coworkers in person much anymore.

Certainly, social media is a contributing factor to this loneliness, but it is a tool to generate our loneliness. We created it, we bought into it. The criticism that social media has created bubbles that people live in, echo chambers of those they agree with, is valid, but it is nonetheless a tool to isolationism. Humans isolate themselves into echo chambers all the time; we have always done this, and we always will. Do you think the Puritans came to the New World because they were interested in having their ideas challenged and to exchange different ideologies? 

Like the Puritans, we all have created bubbles of isolation. The loneliness may be from sitting on the computer or constantly attached to our phones, rather than being an ocean away from “civilization,” yet the feeling of loneliness is nonetheless there, and it is really taking a toll on the psychology of young people. As Mark Fisher points out, we live in cyberspace. In the early days of home computers and the internet, cyberspace was “over there” or “out there.” Cyberspace could only be accessed by sitting down at your computer at home and logging in. Now that we have our phones in our pockets, we carry cyberspace with us at all times. We are always plugged in.

We are not handed a physical menu anymore at the restaurant. We see a QR code on the table, take a picture of it and follow the link to the menu as it is posted online. We don’t physically visit an office and hand the receptionist our resume, we apply online. Physical works of art are being burned and the digital image of the art is being sold for thousands, millions of dollars as NFTs online to “transfer the art into the meta.” (Bataille shrugged and Baudrillard sighed). I even look at the bylaws of my lodge or the Constitutions of the Grand Lodge and see that certain things need to be sent via certified post, and I chuckle and send an email.

I could get deep into Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation or Derrida’s “dangerous supplement,” as they are valid, but the reality is that we are losing our sense of the “real.” Baudrillard’s whole thesis is that the copy, the miniature replica replaces the original (what Derrida terms “dangerous supplement,” cribbing Rousseau), and that reality is so broken down that there is no longer a sense of original versus copy that we now reside in a simulation. Baudrillard calls this “the desert of the real.” And our sense of personal relationships and sense of community has suffered in a way that our psychology and biology cannot reconcile.

One appeal of Freemasonry is that it is a physical, in-person community, and that is one thing that is attractive to young men. But it is not a community by virtue of being an institution. Do not confuse the institution of Masonry with the community of brothers within Masonry. The institution of Masonry just exists to regulate the means and methods of being a Mason and of being a lodge of Masons. It is the brothers themselves that form the community, and no amount of institutional regulation can accomplish that.

I think those new young Masons who join and then leave saw the Masonic fraternity as a community, a group of men of intelligence and good morals that will be in their lives regularly, and then it fails to live up to that perception. They see it as a means to make real friends, likely friends for life, maybe even meeting their best friend, and a way of curing their isolation, and possibly to have some means of support and community to guide and lift them up. Then they find themselves sitting by themselves or ignored during dinner, sitting by themselves in the South listening to minutes and bills, and never hearing a word from a single brother until the next meeting. Or worse, seeing Masons forming cliques and factions and observing those cliques actively working against each other. The Lodge is the clique. There should not be sub-cliques within the clique of the Lodge.

But we are not just a clique; not just a community. We are community for life. Friends move away, we move away from family, neighbors sell their house, we graduate from school and move on, but when you join Masonry, you will very likely be hanging around the same guys until you see them into the graves, and the rest will be there with you until they see you into your grave. Sure a few will move and lose touch, but most are going to be there with you for life. Even the guys that drive you up a wall, no matter how many there are, never compare to the few incredibly amazing guys you meet and grow close with. You are likely to meet your best friend in Masonry. You are likely to make friends who will be your friends until one of you dies. Why can’t the whole Lodge be exactly that? Why can’t the whole Lodge be your best friends? (“Best friend” is not a singular title, it is a tier).

Many will propose having a mentor to guide and work with them, but that is not the issue. A mentor is not a community. They are helpful in guiding new Masons through some of the peculiarities of Masonry that are a bit perplexing at first and to coach them through the catechisms, but that is not a community. 

There are loads of proposals of what can generate better community in Masonry for younger generations, and it is more of the same. A couple of years ago, one of the lodges I am member of was looking for ideas of what we can do together to garner more community with the younger members. More outdoor meetings, bowling league, more fellowship nights, et al… all “more,” more of the same. Then one of the younger members finally got a chance to speak after the older members were done pitching the same ideas, and he said: “How about a game night? We got that big ole TV over there… let’s play Halo together.”

My jaw almost dropped. Of course! Why not? Are we not seeking some means of encouraging young men to unplug from the computer at home and get together? What is wrong with unplugging at home and plugging in together at the Lodge? And it briefly worked. They had a couple of game nights. They ordered pizza, played Call of Duty, Dungeons and Dragons, et cetera. Then some of the older guys took it over and turned it into watching football on Sunday afternoons. Then it died. It was sad. It felt like the older Masons were doing what Mark Fisher criticizes in Acid Communism: “They cannot abolish the young, but they can seek to abolish the youth of the young, the very ability for young people to be the bearers of the future in both consciousness and action.”

More of the same is not going to solve either the isolation the young feel nor declining Masonic membership. More education will not solve it. Masons say they want more education, but no matter how much education is provided, they never engage it or go for it. Clearly wanting “more education” is just a placeholder, something to say when they don’t know what they want. More esoteric education is worse. Masonry eschewed the esoteric for so long that esoterically inclined Masons over a century ago started the Golden Dawn and OTO to serve the void Masonry created. Masonry cannot reinvent itself around a failing it committed decades ago that prompted other organizations to form and corner that market. “More” is not the answer. Something entirely different is needed.

In an age of extreme isolation and anxiety, in an era when we are still finding our foothold in cyberspace and the impacts it is having — like living on the frontier — we need to recognize that old ideas do not even remotely work (pun intended) in the digital era. Fundamentally, we need to address the failures of the digital age. It promised many things, and everything came up short. It promised global connectivity and we got pointless internet arguments. It promised fast information and we got more advertisements. It promised the future and we got the 20th century on high-definition screens. What has drawn the young to the internet usually fails our basic biological and psychological needs. If Masonry is to be relevant to the young, it needs to give them a reason to unplug and come hang out; it needs to provide actual community, actual personal connections, not just mere institutional structure. It needs to not only get with the present, it needs to set itself up for a future the young want to engage and build upon.



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.

Project Delta - An amazing undertaking to help children by a group of brethren in Massachusetts

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners

Project Delta Kits assembled awaiting distribution to First Responders

Recently while honeymooning after my elopement to my beautiful bride, Lisa Goodpaster (now Goodpaster Lahners), we were in Salem, Massachusetts.  While in Salem, I endeavored to find the Masonic Lodge there.  I just happened to bump into Worshipful Brother Jon Hinthorne, who is a Past Master of Delta Lodge in Braintree, MA.  Jon was there to distribute kits for something he named Project Delta.  

WB Jon explained that Project Delta, named after the lodge to which he is a three-time Past Master, has an objective of providing comfort kits (small bags containing stuffed animals) to first responders to give to children who may be dealing with trauma stemming from the crisis situation to which the first responders are responding to.  All too often Police, Fire and EMS respond to calls where children are in the middle of an unpleasant situation. The program can allow these first responders to comfort the child or children involved in the incident and help to redirect their attention away from what they are going through at that moment by giving them a stuffed animal.  

WB Jon told Lisa and I that the kits were borne out of having an excess of stuffed animals due to his autistic son's uncanny ability to beat what is commonly known as the Crane (Claw) Game. The Crane game normally has stuffed animals of varying sizes and sometimes other prizes in which a contestant, pays a sum of money to play the game. Using a joystick to position the crane over a prize, the contestant will press a button to instruct the crane or claw to descend and grab the prize beneath it.  It requires a tremendous amount of skill to win at these games, because normally the animals are positioned in a such a way that they are stacked on top of each other or buried under each other. Having mastered the game, Jon's son soon found himself with an excess of these animals. Out this excess, Project Delta was born.  

So far Project Delta has been able to distribute just over 250 kits. I don't know about you, but it is my belief that the entire purpose of the kit and its objectives in providing relief to a child in distress aligns perfectly with what Masonic Lodges should be doing. Upon returning to my hotel room, I emailed our Grandmaster in Illinois, MWB Michael Jackson, regarding the project.  He stated that he would be discussing it with the director of The Illinois Masonic Children's Assistance Program, Gale Kilbury. It is my hope that it is something that they will adopt and help to make a reality here in my Grand Jurisdiction.  If not, then I will take up the torch to implement it. 

WB Jon was kind enough to send me a kit, and as you can see below, the bag is high quality, along with the animals inside of it. 

If you are interested in helping to bring Project Delta to your lodge or jurisdiction, you can reach out to WB Jon Hinthorne at or


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

The Progressive Line Strategy: How to use it - To beat it. Part Two

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Mark St. Cyr

First, the disclaimer…  

This following is not intended to denigrate the idea of a PL, nor the  Brothers that dedicate themselves to the tasks they bear. What this speaks directly to is how to instill a necessary change into any management practice (our example will be the PL) that has allowed itself to calcify, for whatever reason. Many times those within it (PL) may not be aware to just how hindering the practice has become. The following is a respectful roadmap for those that do, yet, just haven’t been able to decipher a way through.  

So, with that out of the way, here we go… 

In “Part 1” I left you with the premise that to begin, in earnest, you need seven other like-minded Brothers within your Lodge. Doesn’t matter if they’re current, past, or never held office. It’s the amount that’s important. 

The number is important not for some symbolic attribute, but rather, if everything went to plan you and your contemporaries could potentially fill every seat simultaneously during a year in office. e.g.,  

WM,SW,JW,SD,JD,SS,JS. This would be the ultimate resolution if realized and should be the collaborative goal of all those involved. (secretary and  treasurer are for another discussion)


Now let’s get down to ‘brass tacks’ as they say while mincing no words or obfuscation of premise… 

What you (e.g., seven) are going to embark upon is a very legitimate strategy for a tactical takeover (or coup, if you will) of the current working structure of your Lodge to both instill change and install a fundamental transformation for a new working paradigm going forward.


However, let’s also now be clear on something else… 

Not only must (repeat: must! ) every single item, agenda, ________ (fill in the blank) you now propose to implement adhere both by/to the letter of your Grand Lodge code and rule books, it must also be seen to be adhering to masonic values of anything unwritten. The reason why should be self-evident, but for those that may not see it clearly, here’s why… 

Because when you are challenged (and trust me, you will be relentlessly assailed) the only arguments that will withstand said assailing will be those which are precisely that. e.g., to the letter, by the code, and adherence to Masonic ideals and principles. 

There can not be any wavering on these points, both in your pledge for adherence, as well as your steadfastness to standing behind them when trouble comes your way, which I’ll remind you most surely will, usually from places (or persons) you least expected. Trust me on this.

Only by doing things both by the book and in accordance with masonic values will any success be plausible. If not - you’ll not only gain the ire of your Lodge Brothers but also the G.L. and almost assuredly charges. So think about this very carefully before you even begin. 

This ain’t kid's stuff, nor should it be. 

Let me give a relevant hypothetical as to the reason why something like the above should even be considered. Again, this is just one example, for there are myriads, yet it sets the example tone for relevancy… 

Your Lodge assembles for typical ‘green bean’ paper plate dining, does nothing more than read minutes at a meeting, ritual, and degree work is shoddy at best, and you appear to lose more members a year than raise,  with no one seeming to desire anything for improvement. 

I know some of you right now are saying “That’s more than one!” Yes, but in reality, that’s about the most common response or set of responses you hear when this issue is brought up.

So for this exercise - it’s one, OK? Let’s keep going. 

For your seven… 

Although it doesn’t matter if any are serving as officers or have, if one is,  currently? It is a bonus, just not necessary. What is necessary is that the seven of you are completely committed to this endeavor and are giving each other your sacred honor to see it through as a team - not a  committee. 

If you think of this in any shape manner or form from a committee viewpoint - you will fail. Period. No matter what you’ve read or heard from some “management guru” book or audio tape series. Again, period, full stop. 

“Why?” is the next question in case you don’t know (and most of these gurus don’t either) for it is this… 

On a team (think baseball, football, soccer, etc., etc., etc.) the members of a team will do whatever it takes to win for the sake of the team. i.e., an all-star hitter batting .400 will sit out a championship game at bat for a rookie batting .200 if the team has decided that is the strategy and tactic for the best chance to win the game. They may not like it, but they will do whatever it takes, regardless.  

A committee on the other hand will argue (actually the argument will eventually devolve into) why their argument for the .400 batter deserves to be chosen over the argument for the .200 batter. For in a committee structure, it’s not about winning for the team - it’s about the players constructing the committee winning their argument over the other committee members or arguments. Winning the game is secondary. It’s only winning their argument that counts. 

Don’t let that point be lost upon you. Think about it very carefully for true understanding. It’s an insight that alludes most, yet is a primary cause of why most can’t fix what they know is broken. 

So now you begin, and here are the parameters you should all now agree to. They need to be concise and deliverable, and best practice is to limit it to no more than three, while simply one or two is perfectly acceptable. 


An allotment of time no less than 30 minutes but no more than an hour will be set aside for a full presentation of masonic education (M.E.) at every stated meeting and will not be allowed to go unfilled or canceled other than extreme emergencies or true degree work. 

Now that’s only one and you can have more, however, that one alone can be a very big one all on its own. 

In some places, all that may be needed is to sure up an already M.E.  schedule in place that’s just fallen adrift, so you could add another like:  And we will call for all Brothers to be dressed in a dark suit and tie for all stated. But just like the first, this second itself in some places is a major one all on its own. So choose accordingly, but I’m sure you get the gist. 

So now some of you are asking “OK, this all sounds good but how do we get the seven? How do I approach any potential members of this group of seven? What do we say to each other, what exactly are we agreeing to? How do I or we start?” 

All great questions and the right ones. And we’ll discuss precisely that in the next installment. 

See you then.