Concerning the Overabundance of Masonic Publications and Scarcity of Contributors

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Patrick Dey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

From the archives: George Washington's 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WB Gregory J. Knott is the Past Master of St. Joseph Lodge No. 970 in St. Joseph (IL) and a plural member of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), and Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL). He's a member of both the Scottish Rite, and the York Rite, and is the Charter Secretary of the Illini High Twelve Club in Champaign-Urbana. He's also a member of the Ansar Shrine (IL). Greg is very involved in Boy Scouts--an Eagle Scout himself, he serves the Grand Lodge of Illinois A. F. & A. M. as their representative to the National Association of Masonic Scouters.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 George Washington to Washington, D.C., Commissioners, October 27, 1798

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


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

Developing Soul Consciousness in This Digital Age

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Joseph Covell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Edgar Allan Poe's Perverse Masonic Degree: The Cask of Amontillado

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners

In Edgar Allan Poe's Short story, "The Cask of Amontillado",  published in 1846, revenge is the motive for a gruesome murder that takes place in an underground vault.  There is no evidence that Poe was a Freemason.  Many authors have gone out of their way to argue that the short story is an anti-Masonic work and that Poe had publicly mocked the Freemasons, especially in his essay: "The Unparalled Adventure of One Hans Pfall" prior to his writing of: "The Cask of Amontillado".  Compiling to this is an idea that Edgar's strained relationship with his wealthy foster Father, John Allan, was a Freemason, and this led Poe to cast him in the role of Fortunado. I find it difficult to fathom that Poe would have held onto a grudge 13 years after his Foster father's death.  

In a column by E.J. Edwards in the "Washington (D.C.) Herald", published on December 2, 1913, entitled "Capt. Wagner's Recollections of Edgar Allan Poe", There is an odd recollection given by Capt. Fredrick C. Wagner.  Capt. Wagner had an association with Sarah Helen Whitman, Poe's one-time fiance' whom Poe had met in 1845, so this would have been the earliest time when he may have met him.  Wagner was also apparently a Freemason, although I could not confirm this.   

“I presume that very few persons are now living who ever saw, certainly very few who ever talked with, Edgar A. Poe." said Capt. Frederick C. Wagner to me. "In his day he was a very prominent citizen of New York and was well known to the Masonic fraternity of the United States by his prominent identification with the establishment of the great Masonic home at Utica, N.Y. I am fortunate enough to be able to recall many meetings of Poe and several interesting conversations which I had with him at one time or another,” he went on.

If Poe was anti-Masonic, why would he support the building of the Masonic home in Utica, New York?  Perhaps Capt. Wagner was confused, as he states: "My recollections of Edgar Allen [sic] Poe are among the most pleasant of any of those of my young manhood in New York City."  I find it difficult to believe that Poe would have been able to give financially to the Masonic Home building fund. However, I do think that Poe not have had issues with individual Freemasons, but with the institution itself.  In any case, there is enough evidence presented in: "The Cask of Amontillado" to state that Poe was familiar with Freemasonry.  Many authors also state that Poe and others of that time would have had an idea of Freemasonry and its workings due to the Morgan Affair in 1826, however, I believe that Poe had knowledge of some of the higher degrees of Freemasonry, either through the various exposes that came forward at his time or through associations with Freemasons like Wagner. 

In any case, an argument can and has been made for what occurs to the characters in "The Cask of Amontillado" as being a reenactment of a Masonic Degree, however, I want to postulate something different.  It is my argument that if you view the masonic elements in reverse, they reenact the second section of the Fellowcraft degree.  First, let's discuss the story and the Masonic elements contained therein.   

The story begins with the protagonist, Montresor, confessing his dark deed to some unknown person. He regales the story of how he has suffered a thousand insults at the hand of his nemesis, Fortunato. He says that Fortunato has one weakness, which is that he is a connoisseur of wine.  Montresor encounters his nemesis at Carnevale and informs him that he has a pipe (a measurement of cask sizes) of Amontillado in his possession, but he doubts it.  Motresor, quite cleverly, states that he can engage another expert, Luchesi, to look at the cask, as he does not want to occupy Fortunato's time.  Using Fortunato's ego against him, because Fortunato doubts Luchesi's ability to correctly identify the wine, Montresor is able to convince Fortunato to look at this cask. 

Montresor continues to try to persuade Fortunato to not come with him, telling him about the dampness of his vaults, and worrying about Fortunato's coughing, but nothing dissuades him from his mission.  They continue into the vaults after grabbing two torches and descending a long winding staircase.  Once in the vaults of the Montresor palazzo, Montresor plies Fortunato with alcohol, first a bottle of Medoc, followed by a flask of De Grave.   At this point, Poe gives the following description:

"I broke and reached him a flagon of De Grave. He emptied it at a breath. His eyes flashed with a fierce light. He laughed and threw the bottle upwards with a gesticulation I did not understand. I looked at him in surprise. He repeated the movement—a grotesque one. "You do not comprehend?" he said. "Not I," I replied. "Then you are not of the brotherhood." "How?" "You are not of the masons." "Yes, yes," I said; "yes, yes." "You? Impossible! A mason?" "A mason," I replied. "A sign," he said, "a sign." "It is this," I answered, producing a trowel from beneath the folds of my roquelaire. "You jest," he exclaimed, recoiling a few paces. "But let us proceed to the Amontillado." "Be it so," I said, replacing the tool beneath the cloak and again offering him my arm. He leaned upon it heavily. We continued our route in search of the Amontillado. We passed through a range of low arches, descended, passed on, and descending again, arrived at a deep crypt, in which the foulness of the air caused our flambeaux rather to glow than flame."  

At this point, they arrive at the Montresor family crypt, wherein there is discovered a recess that is four feet in depth, three feet in width, and six to seven feet in height in between two colossal supports for the roof of that catacombs.  Montressor exclaims that the cask is therein and when Fortunato investigates, the trap is sprung.  Montresor chains Fortunato to the wall by wrapping the chain around his waist and padlocking it.  Montresor then begins to lay bricks and walls up the recess entombing Fortunato alive.

Many authors have tried to describe the journey that Fortunato and Montresor take as being a Masonic Degree.  They point to the description of the Winding Staircase, the dialogue above, and the description of the two colossal supports as evidence of this.  The problem with this is that it makes no sense chronologically to what happens in the Fellowcraft degree, which is the only degree that features the winding staircase.  However, when you reverse the chronological timing, a more complete picture comes into shape.  The candidate at the end of the first section of the Fellowcraft degree is told the following: "In accordance with an ancient custom adopted in every regular and well-governed lodge, it will be necessary that you make a regular advance through a porch, by a flight of winding stairs consisting of three, five and seven steps to a place representing the Middle Chamber of King Solomon's Temple, where you will find the Worshipful Master who will give you instruction relative to the wages and jewels of a Fellowcraft."  

What happens in the second section?  Allow me to explain with the aid of what Fortunato and Montressor do in parenthesis.  The candidate emerges from the anteroom (Fortunato in the recess), proceeds through the two brazen pillars (Fortunato is led by Montresor into the crypt), to a winding staircase (Fortunato and Montressor descend the staircase into the vaults under Montresor's palazzo), to a place representing the Middle Chamber of King Solomons temple (Montressor and Fortunato while they are above ground), where you will find the Worshipful Master who will give you instruction relative the wages and jewels of a Fellowcraft. (Montresor's initial meeting with Fortunato.  Wages (Coin) and Jewels in a classical sense would make up a treasure, and Montresor's name means: "My Treasure".)  There are many jurisdictions that have within their lodge rooms a physical representation of the pillars, along with the flight of winding stairs, which takes them to a room overlooking the lodge room that represents the middle chamber of King Solomon's Temple. (see the picture below)

Did Poe mean to do this?  We'll never know.  There's more than enough evidence to suggest that Poe had knowledge of this degree and incorporated it into his work.   So where does that leave us? With a mystery, the way Poe intended it.  I will say that Poe was, towards the end of his life, when this story was published, thinking about the nature of God and our universe.  His Lengthy: "Eureka: A Prose Poem" published in 1848 gives us deep insight into his beliefs, and I would say echoes some themes discussed in Freemasonic philosophy.  Even the title of this work should be familiar to every Freemason, even if it is attributed incorrectly to Pythagoras instead of Archimedes.  However, there is no evidence that Poe was a Freemason.  However, I do not believe that he was anti-Masonic.  I think that he was critical of the institution of Freemasonry, but also perhaps intrigued by its mysteries.  

Darin Lahners is our Managing Editor. He is a host and producer of the "Meet, Act and Part" podcast as well as a co-host of an all-things-paranormal podcast, "Beyond the 4th Veil." He is currently serving the Grand Lodge of Illinois Ancient Free and Accepted Masons as a member of the Committee on Masonic Education He is a Past Master of St. Joseph Lodge No.970 in St. Joseph. He is also a plural member of Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL), where he is also a Past Master. He’s also a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, a charter member of Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282, Salt Fork Shrine Club under the Ansar Shrine, and a grade one (Zelator) in the S.C.R.I.F. Prairieland College in Illinois. He is also a Fellow of the Illinois Lodge of Research. He was presented with the Torok Award from the Illinois Lodge of Research in 2021.