Understanding Solar Eclipses

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Jim Stapleton


A total solar eclipse is set to occur on April 8, 2024, and will impact a wide swath of North America. It is estimated that more than 40 million Americans will be in the path of the eclipse.1 Excitement is certainly building for this event. Locations in the exact path of the total eclipse are bracing for increased tourism and crowds. There are plans underway for activities such as watch parties, live online viewing programs, and there are even special airline flights that will follow the path of the eclipse. The interest in the event is understandable. Afterall, the next time a total solar eclipse will impact a large area of North America won’t be until 2045.


However, humans have not always been excited about observing celestial occurrences like eclipses. Since ancient times, people have looked to the skies and studied the heavens. They observed the way the moon changed shape and traveled across the night sky. Patterns were recognized amongst the stars that resembled people and animals, which led the ancients to describe them as constellations along with accompanying stories. Though, one of the most terrifying and awe-inspiring phenomena that ancient civilizations observed had to have been a solar eclipse.


The sun has long held a place of extreme importance in many cultures throughout the course of history. They believed that the sun possessed incredible power. It provided warmth, was vital for agriculture, and aided navigation. The sun is so powerful that it can cause eye damage and potentially blindness if gazed upon directly. As a result, ancient cultures believed the sun held supernatural powers. “It was regularly worshipped as a god – Amun-Ra to the Egyptians and Helios to the Greeks – or as a goddess, such as Amaterasu for the Japanese and Saule for many Baltic cultures.”2 When solar eclipses occurred, earlier civilizations thought they were bad omens. Since they lacked scientific understanding, they invented explanations for the sudden disappearance of the sun during an eclipse.


Some of the oldest records of solar eclipses are from ancient China. The Chinese Emperors feared that solar eclipses were signs from heaven that the stability of their power might be in danger.3 So, there was a tremendous emphasis on recording and predicting solar eclipses. The people of ancient China believed that a celestial dragon devoured the sun when the light disappeared. It became a custom to try to scare away the dragon during eclipses by banging drums and making loud noises.4 Since eclipses are temporary, it is easy to see how people could assume that their interventions had an impact when the sunlight eventually returned.


In Hindu mythology, it was believed that the serpent god, Rahu Ketu, wanted to devour the sun. To prevent this from happening, Vishnu cut off his head. However, this did not solve the problem. The head, Rahu, still wanted to catch the sun and the moon. Sometimes he would successfully catch them, causing an eclipse. Though, with his head no longer attached to his body, the captured sun and moon would eventually fall out of his neck.5


The Vikings believed that Sk├Âll and Hati, two giant wolves, would chase the sun and moon trying to devour them. Eventually, Hati would catch up with the sun and consume it. When an eclipse would happen, the Vikings holler and make loud noises to scare Hati away.6


Interestingly, it seems that various ancient cultures believed that some sort of deity or mythical creature was responsible for eclipses. Of course, we have an understanding of the cause of such planetary phenomena in modern times. By utilizing geometry, astronomers can precisely predict when and where eclipses will happen. As Masons, we are taught to study the liberal arts and sciences. So, we should make sure we learn more about the science behind astronomical events which leads to a better understanding of the universe.



  1. https://www.brown.edu/news/2024-03-22/total-solar-eclipse

  2. https://source.colostate.edu/ancient-cultures-explained-eclipses/

  3. Han, Y., & Qiao, Q. (2009). Records of solar eclipse observations in ancient China. Science in China, 52(11), 1639-1645. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11433-009-0241-8

  4. https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/eclipse-history#:~:text=In%20Ancient%20China%2C%20solar%20and,the%20Moon%20during%20lunar%20eclipses

  5. https://blogs.loc.gov/folklife/2017/08/solar-eclipse-awe-wonder-and-belief/

  6. https://vikingr.org/other-beings/skoll-hati


~JS

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

The Doorman Fallacy: Decorum of the Masonic Fraternity

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Patrick Dey


In the last year, the question has arisen of how much artificial intelligence will affect future jobs. One argument that has arisen to counter this pessimism is the “doorman fallacy.” The doorman fallacy is when short-term planning eliminates something that seems unnecessary and easily replaceable with an automated version of it, but in the long run turns out was a financial enhancement. With the advent of automated door openers and motor-operated revolving doors, many hotels began to get rid of their doormen, as they simply viewed them as just the guy that opens the door, and now unnecessary. However, doormen do a lot more than just open a door. They provide security by keeping out hoodlums and vagrants, they will hail a cab in the rain for someone while they wait inside, they will remember faces — e.g. while you wait on your taxi, they will ask you where you are heading, and when you tell them you are heading to the theater, they will remember to ask you upon your return, “How was the show, Mrs. Smith?” — et cetera. Doormen did a lot more than just open a door. Myopic hotel managers were unaware of just how important these jobs were, and then they thought they could save costs by modernizing their facilities with an automated door opener. They did not realize that within a few years their hotel became less valuable. The hotels that kept doormen were seen as more prestigious. Clientele viewed the venue as more prestigious if there was someone who would open the door, greet them, remember their face, get them a cab, et al. Thus, those hotels were able to keep high-end clientele and even raise rates, while those who fired their doormen would either rehire doormen or make do with lesser clientele and lower their rates.

The basic principle at work here is that something may seem invaluable and therefore cost-effective to eliminate, but it actually in the long run was a valuable asset that was a mistake to eliminate. We could look at how this may work in the future of this uncertain politico-economic sphere, but obviously, we want to focus on how this principle applies to Masonry.

For me personally, there is a decorum in having a doorman. They appear like a luxury, and that is how many hotel managers viewed them: a luxury that can be scrapped for short-term profit margins, but actually proved more useful than myopia could dream of. Further, for me personally, in Freemasonry, it is the decorum of the fraternity in which the allure, the attraction to the fraternity resides. Of the countless arguments floating around out there about how to draw more men to Freemasonry, I think the decorum itself is an aspect that is never once mentioned.

Years ago, while visiting here in Colorado, Adam Kendall gave a lecture on Masonic artifacts, and one thing he stated that stuck with me as he showed countless images of beautiful Masonic museum pieces is this: that there was a time when Masons were so proud of their Masonic affiliation that they had custom, handmade items fabricated for themselves. Beautiful items, be it a set of Lodge Jewels, Masonic rings, or a simple box to put things in. These illustrated something greater about the Masonic fraternity than mere appearances suggest: Masons loved this fraternity so much that they wanted something unique and special made that illustrated the pride they held for being a member of such an elite fraternity in material expressions. I viewed these images of artifacts with utter captivation, and I held onto his words so dearly, all the while abashed that I was wearing a mass-produced cloth apron, subpar to the beautifully hand-painted aprons he was showing. He was right. We lost something in these latter years, and it is the decorum of the fraternity.

I was inspired. When I was elected and installed as the High Priest of my Royal Arch Chapter, as well as the Thrice Illustrious Master of my Cryptic Council, I splurged and procured custom, handmade real leather aprons with real gold fringe and gold-plated tassels that jingle when I walk. They are beautiful and well-made, and I am honored to wear them, because I was proud to serve in these offices, and I am still proud to have served as such. What is comical is that while serving in these offices, I would make a superior Grand Line officer feel inferior by the fact that my apron was nicer than his. While High Priest, on one occasion at a regional official visit, I was standing next to two Past Grand High Priests, and they were wearing cheap cloth aprons with yellow-dyed nylon fringes and tassels, while mine was real leather and real gold. Someone made a remark to me that I appeared to “outrank” them by my apron. I mean, sure, if you looked at our collars, they clearly had the nicer collar and clearly outranked me, but as was remarked, by our aprons, I appeared to outrank them. That was not my intention, but that was the reality. My apron was legal within Colorado Royal Arch law, but these two Past Grand High Priests decided they did not want to shell out the extra $70 or $80 for a really nice apron like me. Seriously, that was about how much more money I paid for my apron over theirs. Sure, it was double the cost, but also less than $200 is not that much. And I know both these men made substantially more money than I did. The same thing happened when I presided as Thrice Illustrious Master when the Most Illustrious Grand Master visited our Council. So why cut costs? What did it really save them? Their dignity as the superior officer, perhaps.

Well, this is exactly the same phenomenon as the doorman fallacy. I cannot exactly say what was their exact motivation in procuring lesser quality aprons, again because I know they all made way more money than me. I mean, apart from their known occupations, they were in invitation-only bodies with annual dues of $500 or more that I had to decline on account of the fact that I am a broke son of a bitch. I would suppose, if I had to guess, that they believed their value lay in the title they held, and therefore had little regard for a material expression of their station. Sure, if you examined our aprons, you would see that they had emblems of their office that far outranked mine. But in material value, you would think I outranked them.

The only difference, I suppose, was that I was more proud to be a High Priest than they were to be a Past Grand High Priest, and I showed off my pride with a nicer apron. At the very least, that is how this may be perceived. That is presumptuous, yes, but it really does appear that way. Again, this is how the doorman fallacy works. This is how decorum works. It is an outward expression of our immense pride in being Masons. Of course, Masonry regards no man for his external wealth or honors, but even someone such as myself — who makes way less than some of these other guys — is willing to pay the extra money to get something special, something unique, something they take immense pride in because they are just that proud to be a Mason. And it shows.

Recently Ben Willians, publisher of the Rocky Mountain Mason magazine acquired the Knights Templar magazine and has taken it from this cheap, half-sized pulp magazine published monthly, to a full-sized quarterly magazine printed on quality stock paper with high-resolution printing. He did this because he understood that the quality of the thing is an expression of the quality of its content. If he produces something of higher material quality, then its readers will regard it with greater prestige. And as far as I am concerned, it has worked. I mean, I used to toss out those old Knights Templar magazines after I was done with it, but the first new one I received, I put it up on my shelf.

There is something in the decorum of the fraternity that is not just a mere outward expression of Masonry’s content, but an expression of its value. Masonry does not demand that you spend thousands of dollars to show your love for the fraternity, but a significant material expression certainly helps illustrate the pride Masons have for their membership. Even when the Lodge Jewels were cut and stamped on tin, these were handmade and may have been all that the Lodge could afford, it was a meaningful expression, and that is recognized in examining such an artifact today. We still have my lodge’s old tin jewels and keep them on display, because they’re unique and cool.

The term decor (from Latin) itself really means “seemly or appropriate.” Thus decorum meant something fitting and appropriate. In Masonry, decorum’s utility is the expression of the pride we have for the fraternity, and this pride is so strong that we wish to express it in material value. We love and value Masonry so much that we build grand edifices to house our events and functions. We love and value it so much that we splurge the extra money to have a nicer apron than even the Grand Officers wear. And there is a value in this decorum.

That value is that others, non-Masons will see this decorum and they will know that we value this organization. They will know by our outward expression, even among the lowliest of craftsmen, that we love this fraternity and that we desire to show the rest of the world how important it is to us. A simple lineman or truck driver wearing a $1000 Masonic ring is proud to be a member of this fraternity, and that means so much more than the stock investor who wears no ring but shows up at official Masonic functions wearing a $50 apron bearing the emblem of his Past Grand Office.

My paternal great-grandfather was a coal miner in Michigan, and I have his 18-karat gold ring with a .25-karat diamond embedded in a 4-karat ruby Masonic ring. I know how much he loved being a Mason by this very ring. His father, also a coal miner (but in Kentucky), had an 18-karat gold ring with gold square and compasses encrusted upon a 4-karat ruby, which I also possess. I know how much he loved being a Mason by this ring, which is worn down so much that you can barely recognize the square and compasses. It is clear he wore it every day. My Nanna, their daughter, and granddaughter, respective, had an 18-karat gold Rainbow Girls ring, as well as a 12-karat gold bracelet, which I also possess, also illustrates her pride in having been a Rainbow Girl, and she was only ever a housewife of a Detroit factory worker. Men and women of not much money understood the decorum of Freemasonry. None of this was meant to financially devastate them, and it didn’t, but they understood the value of this fraternity and they showed it in the decorum of the Masonic paraphernalia they possessed.

How is a prospect supposed to know the Masonic fraternity is something very special when they show up to a prospect event and everyone is wearing jeans and t-shirts? How are they supposed to know that the members of this great fraternity are so proud to be members that even a coal miner will wear a $1000 ring? When they see such material decorum — and they do see it — they know this is something special.

This is the doorman fallacy that Masons have fallen into. It’s not the Grand Lodge’s or even the Lodge’s fault, but every Mason who feels it is more important to carry the dues cards of over $4,000 worth of affiliations — dues cards, which, mind you, are kept privately concealed in your wallet, or you just leave it at home — but won’t bother with even a $250 ring that materially expresses the value they see in this fraternity. People notice this.

Don’t break the bank, but also, decorum goes a long way. Remember that.

~PD

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.

On the Perfect Points of Our Entrance: An Exploration of the Cardinal Virtues

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Paul D. Saltz



When a man enters a room, it could be at his lodge, his place of business, a place of civic engagement, his house of worship, a place of social enrichment, and most importantly his own home; how does he wish to be perceived? For the sake of argument, we shall hold to the premise that a good man wishes to be known for his positive character and sound behavior. The attributes and desires of evil men shall be laid aside for other authors to contend with. Yet knowing how a man desires to be perceived by the larger community does not ensure that he will be. While strangers may be given the benefit of the doubt, those with history are continuously weighed against the tome of their daily actions.

We are taught in the lecture of the Entered Apprentice degree that we are to be known by the perfect points of our entrance. The four points allude to the cardinal virtues of temperance, fortitude, prudence, and justice. By having our entrance to every room ornamented by the adherence to these virtues, a man may increase the probability of a warm welcome. For this reason, a deeper understanding of these virtues is of great importance.

Before the dissection of these virtues commences, please permit me to discuss virtue as a moral habit. Now much has been written and debated in the realm of human development as to how we learn and how habits become part of our behavioral repertoire. So for this discussion, we shall rest on the premise that consistent practice shall demonstrably lead to the formation of habit. As Manual Velasquez, et al stated:

“Virtues are developed through learning and through practice… Just as the ability to run a

marathon develops through much training and practice, so too does our capacity to be fair,

to be courageous, or to be compassionate… Virtues are habits. That is, once they are acquired

they become characteristic of a person.” (Manual Velasquez, et al, web)


Our observed habits speak volumes about who we are as men and Masons. Like a fanfare of trumpets, they precede our entrance into any room. So just as we are to use our working tools to rid our rough ashlars of superfluities, it should become our daily practice to use them in the development of our moral habits, and of the cardinal virtues especially.

The lecture as prescribed by the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Ohio, defines temperance as:

“that due restraint upon the affections and passions which renders the body submissive and

frees the mind from the allurements of vice.” (Entered Apprentice degree)

Such a definition can read quite constrictive to the modern ear. Aristotle did not view the temperate person as one who completely despised life’s pleasures. Rather, they hold such enjoyments within the context of human life as a whole, not permitting overindulgence to undermine other aspects of their existence (Summers, web). Temperance can be viewed as a process of reflection upon our wants and desires to understand why we feel we want them and to what extent the fulfillment of them affects other aspects of our lives, including our relationships with others. Having this self-knowledge allows us to set priorities and create balance based on what we truly value. As Paul Bloomfield wrote in “Some Intellectual Aspects of the Cardinal Virtues”:

“Know Thyself and Be Temperate can be seen as the same thing due to the self-knowledge required for sound decision making… It is within our own consciouses where we must examine the effects of how we judge ourselves, our self-conceptions, and our views about the world around us. This is why temperance is the hardest to master.” (Bloomfield, 301, 303)

This kind of reflection can be very uncomfortable if not downright unsettling. We may not like what we see when it comes to why we are passionate about one thing over another, or why we throw caution to the wind to overindulge in one activity at the expense of something or someone else. In the end, it is not about stripping our lives of everything that gives us even the tiniest amount of enjoyment. Rather the goal is to keep all of our passions within due bounds so that we remain faithful to our obligations and live a balanced life in line with our values, the foundation of our plumbline.

The Entered Apprentice Degree closes its section on temperance by aligning it with the guttural. The explanation given is that by being over indulged, such a state could lead to the disclosure of secrets, which is in direct connection with the historic penalty of the obligation. While many of life’s pleasures are certainly enjoyed through the guttural and that altered states of euphoria can make men say all kinds of things, it can be speculated that its position between head and heart signifies the focus of our reflection in our efforts to be truly temperate Masons. It is also through the guttural that we communicate our needs and wants to those we hold most dear to us. This positive usage, while in contrast to the lecture, does promote the healthy relationships needed to have a balanced life.

Various lists of the cardinal virtues interchange fortitude and courage. The reasoning is because:

“People who have fortitude are described in an admiring way for their courage and this word
comes from the Latin fortitudo, meaning ‘strength’.” (Vocabulary.com)


Under the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Ohio, the word fortitude is used. In its Entered Apprentice lecture fortitude is defined as:

“that noble and steady purpose of mind whereby we are enabled to undergo pain, peril or danger, when deemed expedient.” (Entered Apprentice degree)

In one sense fortitude can be seen as the polar opposite of temperance because where temperance guides us in regards to what is pleasing, fortitude moves us forward in those situations that we wish to avoid. Yet they can be more similar that it would appear at first glance. Both of these virtues aid us in striking a balance in life. Temperance guides us in preventing life’s pleasures from becoming all consuming. Fortitude assists us in evaluating situations so that we do not take risks for “trivial ends.” (Bloomfield, 295) Instead, fortitude provides the courage to act boldly for those ideals and goals worth risking for. Thus temperance and fortitude both require us to examine what we value most and as a consequence, where we set our plumbline.

It has been fortitude that has shaped human history. Every innovative idea ever presented, every new technology utilized to ease then human workload, to every great societal shift brought about by war or peaceful protest, all required fortitude to carry them out. From world changing events to those that change a family unit (marriage, having children, changing jobs, etc.) we rely on fortitude to help us strike the balance between “excessive timidity and excessive boldness.” (Summers, web) We can’t become paralyzed by fear or ruined by recklessness. Rather fortitude allows us to move forward, eyes open, and with full understanding of the costs and potential benefits of an action.

The Entered Apprentice lecture connects fortitude with the pectoral due to our being received on the point of a sharp instrument. While fortitude is certainly required to knock on the door, be received, and proceed with the initiatory ritual, there is more to it than that. Fortitude and courage have long been associated with the heart. A popular culture example would be the cowardly lion from the Wizard of Oz (originally featured in the book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum in 1900, followed by film adaptations in 1914, 1925, and the classic version in 1939 where Bert Lehr was cast as the lion). Towards the end of the story the lion is presented with a heart by the wizard, acknowledging the courage he already possessed. This longstanding association makes a natural connection between the pectoral and fortitude.

Prudence is described in the Entered Apprentice lecture as that which:

“teaches us to regulate our lives and actions according to the dictates of reason and is that habit by which we wisely judge and prudentially determine upon all things relative to our present as well as our future happiness.” (Entered Apprentice degree)

Prudence can be seen as practical wisdom, guiding our choices as we determine what is good in the present moment. (Summers, web) Learning prudence is primarily through lived experience. We gain situational wisdom by broadening our experiences and learning from them, both the positive and the negative. We also learn through shared wisdom from those of both lengthier life and of different paths than our own. As Henry Summers writes in “What Were Aristotle’s Four Cardinal Virtues”:

“Aristotle’s moral framework thus emphasizes the role of mentors in the ethical life. We must
learn how to judge rightly from those who have experienced more than we have and who have
gained insight over the course of their lives. Moral education, then, is key.” (Summers, web)


Brethren in Freemasonry are uniquely positioned through both formal programming and informal gatherings, to share wisdom gained with each other. One does not need to be an official Master Craftsman to a candidate in order to impart knowledge gained during the course of his life. Neither does a new brother need to wait until he has sat in the east or received a twenty-year service pin to share his thoughts. Every man comes to Freemasonry with life experiences and wisdom that can be shared for the improvement of all. In the spirit of brotherly love even the shyest Entered Apprentice can be encouraged to share their own wisdom, thus allowing the lodge to benefit from the strength of every living stone within it.

The lecture of the Entered Apprentice degree assigns prudence to the manual, for how we held the volume of sacred law. Every man can gain wisdom through the study of their faith’s sacred texts. Yet independent study of limited perspectives only takes us so far. Humans are social animals who need interaction. As Freemasons we have the benefit of learning from the collective of our diverse brotherhood. The process of becoming prudent is enhanced and even expedited through our experiences with shared knowledge. Who better to learn and share with than one in whom we share a grip.

Justice is defined in the Entered Apprentice lecture as:

“that standard or boundary of right which enables us to render to every man his just due without distinction. This virtue is not only consistent with divine and human laws, but is the very cement and support of civil society.” (Entered Apprentice degree)

As temperance and fortitude are connected to where we set our plumbline, justice demands strict adherence to the level. In matters of justice, how we view our own place in the world and our relation to others is just as important as how we view a situation where a person(s) claim wrong doing and insist on restitution. To hold mankind on the level ensures that we hold the concerns and needs of all men as valid and do not dismiss them because the other is viewed as less than. The philosopher John Rawls once wrote that “justice is the elimination of arbitrary differences.” (Bloomfield, 306) This definition can be seen as the foundation of every social justice movement through history, from rights for aboriginal peoples, women, to more current struggles for racial equity, and over sexual orientation and gender identity. While difference has created a beautiful spectrum of diversity across the human family that is to be celebrated, our interactions and decision making as it relates to other individuals and our relationships with them require us to see all people as individuals whose lives are just as valuable and deserving of respect as our own. As Albert Pike wrote in his essay on the 16th Degree – Prince of Jerusalem in Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry:

“the work of justice shall be peace, and the effect of justice, quiet and security, and wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of the times. Walk ye righteously and speak uprightly; despise the gains of oppression, shake from your hands the contamination of bribes; stop not your ears from the cries of the oppressed…” (Pike, Freemasoninformation.com)

The level is our tool against oppression and discrimination in all forms for it demands that we see each person on earth by their character and not by which they are different from ourselves. This is the foundation of a just society.

The Entered Apprentice lecture connects justice to the pedal, by way of the time we stood squarely in the northeast corner of the lodge. It was in this position where each Mason was to begin laying the cornerstone of their own temple not made with hands. While it can be speculated that the spiritual cornerstone should consist of all of the virtues, it must be leveled with justice. Otherwise, the stones laid upon it will not stand. Likewise, a society without true justice is doomed to crumble into anarchy. Thus every Mason must stand as an embodiment of justice for the larger world.

The old adage “actions speak louder than words” brings our exploration of the cardinal virtues into pristine focus. As with all lessons within Freemasonry, it is in their practical application that we improve our lives and it is by our actions that we are known by the world around us. A man can want to be greeted and welcomed as a good and upright individual but do the actions he is known by warrant it? We are all called to deep reflection; to honestly face our rough ashlars and submit our lives to the painful strikes of the gavel, to rid ourselves of negative thought processes and behaviors. Are our lives in balance? Do we act with courage for the right reasons? Do we let practical wisdom guide our decision making and are we willing to learn from and mentor others? Do we see every human being as valued and beloved children of our creator and do we stand for taking actions that maintain the worth of each individual? How do you truly enter a room?

~PS


Brother Saltz was initiated on June 27, 2023, passed on September 26, 2023, and raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason on February 13, 2024, at Reynoldsburg Lodge #340, Reynoldsburg, Ohio. While still a newbie in many respects, he enjoys delving into ritual and helping his brothers with the monthly breakfast which supports the Reynoldsburg Special Olympics. He has been a lifelong student of history and philosophy and looks forward to researching and writing on the breadth of what the craft has to teach us in our modern times. 

Outside of Freemasonry, Brother Saltz serves the residents of his home county at the Child Support Enforcement Agency, where he is an Administrative Assistant to the executive team and manages the office's diversity initiatives. He is a self-described anglophile, foodie, avid reader, and lover of the arts. When not at work or with his brethren, he finds sanctuary at home with his husband Aaron, and their two cats. 

Pathway to the East

by Senior Midnight Freemason Contributor
Gregory J. Knott 33° 

The Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of the State of Illinois has numerous programs to help the lodges and its membership.  One of these programs is called “Pathway to the East”.   It was developed by RWB Wayne Spooner and other brethren as a means to help prepare Master Masons who are or will be the Worshipful Master of their lodge.


I have already served as WM of two different lodges and am back in the chairs to serve a third lodge in the next couple of years.  So as I thought about taking the class, I wondered if you could teach this old dog new tricks?  After all, I was already experienced, what more would there be to learn.


However, I had heard many good things about this class and decided to sign up.   RWB Spooner was offering a virtual classroom opportunity and it fit nicely into my schedule.  The format was to spend two Saturdays for about five hours per session to cover the material.


Specifically covered in the course are five pillars:


• #1 - Management Style and Communication Skills

• #2 - Planning and Prioritization

• #3 - Managing Lodge Business Affairs

• #4 - Understanding Masonic Law

• #5 - Ritual Understanding and Exemplification


Materials were provided in advance for each session, giving you time in advance to review what was going to be covered.   Each pillar has both a lecture component and time to work during the class on topics such as putting together an annual lodge calendar of events, creating a budget, etc.  The pace of the class was just right and the materials were very thorough and extremely useful.


I learned many things in the class that I wish I had used in my previous rounds through the East.  At a recent meeting of Ogden Masonic Lodge No. 754, I brought up some of the things we covered and we will be utilizing them in helping to strengthen our lodge operations and activities.


Your grand lodge may have a similar class.  If they do, I highly encourage you to sign up and attend, you will find it well worth your investment of time.


~GJK


Greg Knott is married to Brooke and has two adult children Riley and Hayden.  He hopes to have left the world better than he found it.

Disappointment, Burnout, and Knowing When to Walk Away

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Erik Geehern



This past Wednesday, as I read WB Lahner's “Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes” post, it resonated with me on so many levels.  Specifically, this; “However, the job of being the Blog's editor is time-consuming, thankless, and sometimes frustrating.”

Two months into my year in the East I sat down and wrote down my thoughts, mostly as a way for me to vent.  I was frustrated and disappointed in the participation levels in my Lodge at the time. As a new Master, I was trying to invigorate our small country Lodge and do things differently than they had been done before. In my eagerness to revitalize our Lodge, I might have set my expectations too high, hoping to see a surge of engagement and renewed enthusiasm.  

I ended that written rant with this; “It may be time to humbly admit that my expectations might have been overly ambitious, and I am dedicated to working alongside all my Brothers to create an atmosphere of unity and purpose within our Lodge.”

It is now about seven months later, and sadly nothing has really changed.  We all know Masonry is a volunteer organization, one that takes a back seat to family, faith, or work commitments.  I agree wholeheartedly with that sentiment and have put things ahead of my attending a meeting or rehearsal many times myself.  Still, I must admit that I find myself feeling disappointed in some of my Brothers.  

Recently I called for a meeting to discuss our Lodges finances as well as a few other items I think could use a revision in our bylaws.  It snowed the morning of the meeting and several Brothers reached out stating we should cancel due to the weather and the road conditions, even though the snow had stopped by 1 pm and the roads were perfectly clear well before our 6:30 pm meeting.  In the interest of ensuring we had maximum participation, I postponed the meeting. 

Several Brothers then reached out complaining about the postponement… To ensure we didn’t have a repeat I decided we would make the meeting virtual, that way if the weather interfered again, it would not be an issue.  Not surprisingly several Brothers reached out to complain they are incapable of joining virtually.  So, I made the meeting hybrid, I would meet at the Lodge and set it up on our big screen, everyone can come in person or attend online, whatever works for them. Including myself, seven Brothers participated. One of the Brothers who reached out to me three times to complain in one fashion or another about this meeting did not come.

Seven months ago, I wrote about how we had a toy drive to benefit the Shriner’s Hospital for Children in Philadelphia.  This is something that our Lodge has done for about three years now. We have one toy drive in July for the Centurion “Christmas in July” event and another in December for the holidays.  We have one Brother who takes all our donations down personally each year and supplies us with pictures for our newsletter.  I’m not sure if it is even worth including in our next issue, we had two or three Brothers contribute, and that’s it.  In total those few Brothers donated about ten full grocery bags filled with toys, so we should be proud that we were able to contribute to a very worthy cause.  Our December toy drive fared even worse.  I just can’t shake the knowledge that we could have and should have, done much more.

We had three worthy Entered Apprentices we were preparing a Fellow Craft Degree for.  In our Lodge, the Senior Warden leads that effort and sits in the East for the Degree.  We had about six rehearsals in total, no more than three or four Brothers were able to attend any given rehearsal night for various reasons.  Pretty hard to rehearse for a degree without the officers that have important roles.  Eventually, we made a difficult decision to have our Brothers be passed in a Fellow Craft Degree at a neighboring Lodge, as we felt it was unfair to hold these Brothers back in their Masonic progress.  We still have one EA we need to prepare a Degree for as he was unable to attend.  I think it looks likely we will be asking for another Lodge’s assistance once again.

In my usual vocation, I have managed small and large teams.  I have had up to ninety direct reports and at one time was responsible for approximately seven hundred employees.  I understand the struggles of motivation in the workforce.  My usual tactics will not work in the Lodge, it's not like I can increase wages for increased performance or offer bonuses to top-performing units.  Every member of our Lodge joined for the same core reasons, to be a part of something bigger than themselves, to become better men, to learn and grow.  Why then is every Brother not giving it his all and holding himself to higher expectations?

But as I reflect on this, I am compelled to question whether my expectations are indeed too high. After all, Freemasonry is built upon the foundation of unity, friendship, and mutual support, and each Brother contributes according to his abilities and circumstances.

I remember early in my career being so frustrated with some of my employees and the condition in which they would leave the store at night.  I would come in and have to re-sweep and mop the floors, clean the glass, empty trash, etc.  Eventually, I learned it was completely unrealistic to expect some team members to care as much about the store as I did.  I was a salaried manager, there fifty-plus hours a week, and ultimately, I was responsible for every aspect of the store.  Why would a high school student, making minimum wage work ten or fifteen hours a week because he needs gas money care as much as I do about the condition of the store?  On average, they won’t, and I really can’t blame them.

I guess Masonry has some of the same dichotomies.  Not every Mason is willing or able to make Masonry a full-time commitment.  My two children are a bit older and largely can take care of themselves.  I highly doubt if I had an infant or a toddler, I would be able to participate at the level I do now.  I’m sure when I am older and have grandchildren if I get a last-minute call on a meeting night to come watch the kids I would jump at that opportunity.  I am sure some Brothers are in very different financial positions than I am, and simply may not be able to contribute to the myriad of fundraisers and donation requests that are put forth throughout the year.  

I have no doubt that anyone who has sat in the East can relate to the feeling of frustration when you put so much effort into something and those efforts simply are not reciprocated, or even appreciated.  I often discuss with one very close Brother, who participates in everything our Lodge does, the ongoing frustration I feel.  Sometimes just being able to vent helps.  Maybe it’s a bit of seasonal affective disorder, but I have thought maybe it is time to affiliate with a more active Lodge and move on.  My Masonic District has thirteen Lodges.  Most are in similar situations as my own, some better, some worse.  A few stand out as active, growing in membership, and generally on the rise.  However, our small Lodge is in a position where the loss of even one active Brother would be devastating. There is no way I can allow our Lodge which has existed and served our community for almost 170 years to fail. 

If seven Brothers could start this Lodge in 1855, surely seven can help get it back on track in 2024.  So, am I disappointed? Yes.  Am I burnt out? A little.  Am I ready to walk away? Not a chance.


~EG

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

Warily Unaware

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro.Steve Leapman


Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, Who has given us the mind and heart to distinguish between night and day!  - taken from pp. 18-19 The Complete Artscroll Siddur, Mesorah Publications, 1984 / 2001 & with this writer’s adaptation


O wad some Power the giftie gie us / To see oursels as ithers see us!  Such a power or ability would save us a lot of bother and foolish notions; … from “To a Louse by Brother Robert Burns https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/To_a_Louse


Sometimes we don’t realize the force of a moment until it is passed. I place my ego on the sidelines and acknowledge this happens far more often than I wish to admit. Yet, I also believe Masonry’s practices and principles hone my awareness. Through Masonry, I may live a life of response, not reaction. Each moment and every day awaits us as Masons for we actively attend those 24 hours. We honor them in our very first Degree through the Common Gauge. We are not to be workmen whose greatest load is the annual dues card carried in our wallets. 

The rough ashlar is an ample allusion in assisting our cultivation of skills for the journey from novice to artisan. An actively aware Mason studies his progress from Initiate to Mason; wakefulness of your years is not to trifle with your feelings but to fortify you for purpose with perspective. This acuity does not arise from a life devoid of curiosity. “Actively aware Masonry” is but a synonym for willful dedication. The actively aware Mason cannot evade a keen sense of duty which compels him to act to heal a fractured world. The obtuse life is not well suited to an actively aware Mason. 

The stone that needs shaping is a sufficient metaphor for those traits we polish to adorn character. I wish to speak on this gift of “awareness.” The well-honored passage by Brother Burns bespeaks the blessed knowledge of how we are seen. The ancient rabbinic petition praises God for gifts of intellect and soul allowing each of us to make distinctions in the natural domain and amidst those timeless realms of sanctity and morality. 

One is justified to assert Freemasonry’s call to Character mandates Duty. Such is the Faithful Breast obedient to the Attentive Ear. To hear the Word is to convert Speculative awareness to Life’s redemptive Labor. Inner qualifications now recommend external quantifications. Actively aware Masons acquire merits. They apply the Soul’s insights realized through action. 

Neither “intentions” nor “preoccupations” fit the bill. Masonry is after all a Craft. Each Brother daily turns to his Trestle-Board in search of that day’s revealed hence required service. “Required?” Really? Certainly so!

There are certainties beyond our minds and opinions. Masonry enthusiastically welcomes each man’s explorations. Neither Operative nor Speculative Masons can build without absolutes and standards.

This has ramifications Mason's risk at grave peril. When or where, why, or how Masonry concedes God is limited to human “suggestions” or what we “feel” “comfortable with” a question arises to confront the intellectually honest Mason. Can such an Architect be “Grand?” If so, what of we who invoke such Grandeur? 

No! To abandon absolutes is to abandon Geometry itself let alone The Grand Geometrician honored in the Opening Prayer for the Fellowcraft Lodge. Contemporary Masons have no right to remove Deity from the Trestle-Board to which we turn if we evict a Deity why retain obligations? Eroding The Presence is the cost of such concessions. It is why many never return once Raised. They have not been aroused by Awe! They are bereft of Reverence. 

As each labors in community and toils in the care of kin we evolve within as men humbly but confidently aware of the Fatherhood of God. Granted, our semantics vary as they should in a Free Society. Our theology is personal. Our faith must be well-founded. No policy nor marketing scheme can promise this.

A Freemasonry that deserves to endure as our lasting legacy is not about giving away this shiny pin, that ribbon, a badge, a hat, or a title. Imagine explaining to a Medieval Stone Mason, whose grandchildren might see a Cathedral begun by a great-grandparent, that in four or five centuries you only need to spend one day to become a Master Mason and pick up Scottish Rite to boot, breakfast and lunch included! Actively aware Masons are not first and foremost charity workers or case managers. We are not here to gather numbers but to gain the Numinous. The reward of truly Masonic Life is to live in Masonic Light. 

We dare not waste precious moments or material demeaning ourselves and our spirits amidst one-day classes. Our Operative Ancients honed the patience of centuries as they assembled Sanctuaries still inspirational today. Neither Wisdom nor Strength nor Beauty are overnighted to our doorsteps by Amazon Prime! Authentically aware Masonic workmanship exhibits an attention to detail we meagerly comprehend in our age of Internet and Instant Messages.  

Just as the fires of a well-tended domestic hearth comfort all therein, the glow of Divine Glory within man’s sacred privacies fosters healing. Thus, as actively aware Masons, we display resolve when Honor is called to step forward. An authentic Mason is a man aware of who he is and more so Whose he is! A man who is Masonically aware, is one whose behaviors are dignified and dignifying. 

One may know our ceremonies and esoteric forms letter, syllable, and word yet conduct himself so shamefully, belittle other men and Masons so shamelessly as to nullify all the nuances of our beautiful rituals and inspirational rites. Titles shall not hide truths daily demeanor depicts beyond doubt. Are we aware there must be little if any gap between word and deed? Our character marks our figure beyond equivocation or mental evasion. 

 A man must emulate that refined awareness of self and centeredness of soul Grand Master Hiram Abiff displayed. On the day he gave fully of himself he faced danger without warning nor hesitation. Those clarities which crisis coalesced in his soul were beyond doubt. GMHA would neither suffer degradation nor diminishment when conscience called out. 

No conscientious Mason sets to his labors in a frenzy. To do this would present a case study in passions run amok. Had our ancient Operative Brethren done so they would not have found ready steady employment. The Cathedrals we cherish today would have collapsed long ago. Lethargy nor shoddiness allow us to cement Living Stones. 

The Compasses serve to circumscribe zeal as they focus on productive ambition. Indeed, man's passions unrestrained breed destruction. Forceful barbarism would never have been able to destroy what could never been built had idleness forestalled Solomon’s plans and deterred King David’s dream. A life without purposeful awareness is the grip and word for entropy.

It is the astutely aware Speculative worker whose edifices we enjoy and cherish. Once the heat of effect cools we find time, space, and place for the Grammar, Rhetoric, and Logic intrinsic to the Fellowcraft Degree, its mindset, and our way of life.  We must abandon the woeful immaturity that St. Paul recognized as an encumbrance of growth. 

Those possessing such silliness are not sufficient to pass through our West Gate. Real men of worth, merit, nobility, and character disdain being “marketed!” One cannot sheep-steal souls! Those easily distracted or eventually disinterested will wander in and soon off. Talk about “off or from!” Watch for it! Wait for it! Masons and Masonry must be honest with and within ourselves. When we are unaware of our proximity to Truth we endanger this Grand Fraternity.  

Let us choose otherwise. Let us choose wisely. Let us be actively aware. As Masons we ask, seek, and knock to be molded and guided, taught and inspired by men of dignity, centeredness, and at peace with themselves for they are at peace with their God. As Traveling Men, we tread lightly yet confidently beyond denomination or dogma, unconcerned with political positions and polling. 

What then are our labors? Better question: How then, can we determine what tasks should earn our energy. As Masons, who are actively aware, we see our task beyond doubt is to focus on the soul’s maturity cut, squared, and valued over time. This is why men finally vocalize to a trusted friend or relative, “I think that I’d like to be a Mason! What do I do? Who do I talk to?” 

It is this passion, which we form as the clay from which each individually worthy and well-qualified Brother journeys towards his East. This is the work and worth of an actively aware Mason. We are not some puerile “frat” best suited to an adolescent’s nonage. Rather, Masons await a man’s nascent adulthood as acuity sharpens. As adolescence recedes Moral Geometry guides the emerging adult. The Speculative Astronomy of the Fellowcraft Degree presents stars to steer by. “Active awareness” expands. We navigate by the “G” not by impulsivity.  

Not everyone should seek that vaunted recommendation. As we have bemoaned a lack of readiness at Life’s earliest days, so too one impaired by an aged psyche, experiencing a dotage far less of years than of yearnings. Complacency has constricted one’s morality. The pulse of Life has slowed. Hearts and mentality harden. 

Such souls emulate Exodus’ Pharoah or the unfairly indicted “Pharisees!” No, these were hollow men who lost their mission. Such capitulations to compromise or kings besmirch every ethnicity, era, culture, and cause. It is fallacious anti-Semitism to assign this trait to any singular tribe, certainly not my own. Masonry will demean no man’s religion, dictate no man’s religiosity, and certainly not belittle any man’s faith. Actively aware Masons are Geometrically Correct. 

These “authorities” in truth were far less than valid nor reliable. They were far less sages than stultified minions of institutions collapsed by their betrayals of original intent. We see them vibrant and repugnant today as then! Pray God one’s own soul does not imitate their folly.

Freemasonry’s enterprise is the development of a man’s finest essence. Freemasonry will not surrender to social correctness for we are neither primarily nor preferentially “social.” Masonry is about the man, the citizen, the adult member of his country and culture.

Unaware and toting vices and superfluities of an image, business connections, pins, garlands, lapels, and letterheads, we might balloon numbers. However, these men are soon gone with the winds of disciplined commitment, vital proficiencies, Floor Schools, individual study, and personal prayer. Is this nothing other than a denial of Godliness if not God of which our teachings warn? One seeks Masonry as it appeals, promises profits, and promotes sales! How sorrowful. How blindly empty. How fatal a plague.

The refusal to recognize or revere Our Creator deludes one. He anoints himself as the measure and maker of individual Destiny. Intentional? Probably not! Yet it is detrimental. This is to live as a libertine. Lusts seize tightly the helm aboard the ship of soul. One lives unaware moving hither and thither, helter-skelter through darkness derived the Light Masons revere to illuminate our travels.  Such an unaware soul paves no trail. He stumbles upon it. 

Well, if “awareness” is crucial state it plainly! Did “awareness” as a virtue and trait get lost in the turmoil during those closing moments of Hiram’s life? Maybe! It was a heinous murder! Though wretched chaos was rampant Solomon ruled. Actively aware Masons buttress the narrative of our Grand Master’s death. As we study Masonry we are not literalists. Our search for Wise Awareness depicts a laudable pursuit. Hiram was a servant of his awareness. He told the assailants, “Better my mortality than your morality!” 

“Active awareness” redeems the atrocity of Hiram’s last moments. Did it tumble away dropped due to a “nerveless grasp? Where is “awareness” listed amongst our Tools? Why doesn’t it appear in the “Furniture of the Lodge?” Can a Mason be authentically Masonic lacking attention to detail, dull to curiosity, or decision-making? Can one be an evolved Mason when only reactive to circumstances? Our charges envision an educated, reflective, involved, and decisively participatory citizen. Such is one aware! Masonry fosters this!

The Masons we wish to find and refine, retain, and become make “active awareness” a prized “internal qualification” one-day programs cannot guarantee. We must advance our capacity to do what our Lodge Secretary accomplishes when he makes a “correct record of all things proper to be written,” as he will “carefully observe the proceedings of the Lodge.”  (Texas Monitor 2023, page 160). 

Post-Script: Now it applies to me and my duty to see! 

Two fine men and exemplary Masons have shown and taught me the impeccable wisdom of The Fellowcraft Lecture. PM Dave Wood of South Bend IN’s Council Oak #745 and JW Kirk Otto of San Antonio’s Perfect Union # 10 are these teachers. Though they have never met their passion for our Craft compels me. In their honor, I learned the Texas Fellowcraft Lecture. I gave it one evening at Triune # 15 here in San Antonio. 

Texas ritual places the delivery of that exquisite prose in the East. The Brother rendering this Lecture is expected to duly use and properly deploy The Gavel. At the point where the WM gathers The Lodge to rise to glorify Deity, I did my duty. I never until this moment “gaveled the Lodge up” as we say here in Southern Texas. So eager to enact the ritual respectfully I was obtuse to my own experience. 

An entire day passed before I realized I had never stood in the East in this fashion. I needed a few days for my ego to surrender to my mind and then onward to my soul. The significance those moments held for me linked me to my father and a man whose years in this life have passed yet his legacy reaches into my days and decisions.  

Once home I pondered the gavel owned and used by Dad’s best friend PM Jack Lawson who in 1977 stood in the East at Abraham C. Treichler # 682 in Elizabethtown, PA. This gavel now rests with esteem in my home. Brother Lawson and his Blue Lodge line are photographed as another heirloom preserved on the wall of the room where I type these words. 

Dad was a local merchant. Decades after Dad and PM Lawson entered the Celestial Lodge I learned a secret. It was my Dad who supplied and engraved the gavels many years ago for Abraham C. Treichler # 682 of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. 

I thank God for the gift of awareness. I thank God for a dawning sense of my ability to contribute. I thank God for how awareness evolves for our Masonry provides implements as metaphors to instruct our expansion of perception.  

I am observant of my time to serve. I am aware of Whom I ultimately serve. It may be in The East, yet I must be in The Lodge we each necessarily build daily. I humbly ponder the photo of Brother Jack. I consider the lessons of word and work he imparted to his officers, Dad, and me. 

Masonry helps me pay my finest attention. To “pay” is to render one’s due share. Masonry beckons me: Cultivate the best man I hope to be. Perhaps I will honor my father and PM Jack as they blessed me. Jack would not reveal any secrets but once he tried to share the Craft he loved so well and loyally! He smiled at me saying fondly, “Stevie, there’s a lot of the Bible in Masonry!”

~SC

Steven M. Leapman was raised in 1996 at what was then Blackmer # 442 in San Diego, CA when serving as a Navy Chaplain. He sees himself as a “returned Mason” come home to active participation in Masonry through MW John R. Heisner Lodge #442. He joined Council Oak Lodge # 745 in South Bend, IN serving as Junior Warden when in 2021 he and his wife moved to San Antonio, TX. There he was warmly welcomed into the Masonic community once again and has become a member of Davy Crockett # 1225 where he serves as Lodge Chaplain. He also serves as Senior Deacon at Antonio’s Triune # 15. He is a member of Northern Masonic Jurisdiction and Southern Masonic Jurisdiction as a 32d Degree Mason. As a member of the San Antonio Scottish Rite community has served as Degree Master for Prince of The Tabernacle 24th Degree and supports the presentation of other degrees during Reunions. He actively attends monthly Continuing Masonic Education Zoom sessions and hopes to write deserving reflections on our beloved Craft. Brother Steve attended American University in Washington, DC in 1981 and 1984 earning degrees in Literature. He attended Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion where in 1990 he graduated with a Master’s in Hebrew Letters (MHL) and was ordained a Rabbi in Cincinnati, OH in 1991. Brother Steve served in the US Navy/ USMC Chaplaincy from 1993-2000. Later he returned to the military community as a mental health professional with the Veterans Administration in Indiana and Texas. He graduated from Indiana University South Bend in 2008. He has been involved with Civilian and Military/Veterans’ Care since then.