Lightning Strike, or How Symbols Play Tricks on Us - Part 3 of a series

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Patrick Dey

Very often in esoteric Masonic research papers and books, we will find instances of Masons relating Freemasonry back to some ancient mystery cult or another. They will take the few artifacts and written accounts if there are any, of these cults and spin them into something that resembles Freemasonry. Such writings were barely acceptable in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but this really is no longer acceptable, at least academically. Their agenda appears to be that they want Freemasonry to be the inheritors of an ancient lineage of initiation rites. Albert Pike does this. Albert Mackey does this. Manly P. Hall does this. It would be nauseating to survey every Masonic author who is guilty of such parallelomania — the phenomenon of someone seeing similarities between two or more religions or cultures, in which they begin to force more similarities than are really there, sometimes completely fabricating information to push their agenda of making these things appear similar.

In many instances, they suggest that all the ancient mystery cults were the same thing, with only minor variations from region to region. Such was presumed before World War I and II, and during the time of the Great Wars, universities were largely concerned with the sciences to support the war effort. However, after World War II, many academics and funding was opened back up for research into these ancient cults. What we now understand about these cults is less certain than previously presented, and that they are all very different from each other. We call them “mystery cults” because it is a mystery what went on in their rites. It is a mystery, hence, a “mystery cult.” That is why we call them that, and there is nothing deeper than that. We know a great deal more about these groups today than we did a century ago, and what we know from archaeology has yielded many things that do appear to resemble something like Freemasonry, but just as much is totally different.

I think of Nietzsche’s example of a “lightning strike” (On the Genealogy of Morals, §13). It is two words, but one thing. Nietzsche uses this to illustrate how language plays tricks on us. We take the two words of “lightning strike” to presume that the “doer” does the “doing,” but really a lightning strike is simply one thing: an action, a doing, and we let our language trick us into viewing this term otherwise.

This sort of trick that language plays on us, I think, is being played on us when we use the term “religion.” Hinduism, Buddhism, Daoism, Christianity, Roman paganism, indigenous American religions, Satanism, et al, are all examples of what we call “religion.” But are they? They are very different things, and there is no solid definition of “religion” that totally encapsulates these “religions.” Satanists do not believe in God. Daoism does not necessarily believe in the personification of Deity, but more of an all-pervading energy or animus that endows the nature of all things. Is belief in a god or gods necessary to be a religion? Buddhists do not necessarily believe this world is real, but an illusion we have created for ourselves and that we must escape by extinguishing our being (nirvana). What even is religion? It is complicated, and the more we truly survey the different examples of religion, the more we may begin to ask ourselves: are these all examples of “religion”? or are they all different things that we only have one word to describe them?

This is what Nietzsche is saying with “lightning strike.” Do not let language play tricks on you. “Our who science is still, in spite of all its coldness, of all its freedom from passion, a dupe of the tricks of language…” thus spake Nietzsche.

Mystery cults, their artifacts, symbols, and the vague descriptions that survive of their rites, et al, makes this problem so much worse, because herein we have entered the same problem of language tricking us, but the language is not a simple signified-signifier relationship, but something much more vague and open to interpretation: symbols, allegory, myth, and legend. “Lightning” is a signifier for a very specific idea (the signified idea of lightning), and “strike” is another signifier for another very specific idea (that of striking). But introduce a symbol like a point within a circle, and we open up a world of complex and interrelating and differing ideas represented in an image that acknowledges that these ideas cannot be fully expressed in a single sign.

Let us quickly recap the conceptions of symbols as being used here and previously explored in the first post of this series, “What Even are Symbols?” published on this blog on December 20, 2023. I believe Jean Baudrillard best understood the use and conception of symbols, namely that they are a system of signs and signifiers, but that they deny that the complete totality of all it expresses can be represented in an image. This is unlike a simulacrum, a copy of something, such as a portrait of a person. We know it is not that person, but a good representation of their likeness. A symbol, on the other hand, essentially denies that the entire reality of something can be fully represented, and thus denies reality and creates a sign to stand in for a reality that cannot be represented.

If that seems vague, you are on the right page, because symbols are vague and multifaceted. They are not as simple as a nice portrait of a famous person. You do not look at a portrait of George Washington and say to yourself, “Well, the complexity of his life and beliefs are so grand and magnanimous that this cannot be a portrait of George Washington.” But if you show the image of a point within a circle, and someone says, “That is the symbol for the sun!” they will be immediately met by numerous voices declaring other things, like the duad, the image of unity, the first principle of Euclidean geometry, et al. Symbols tend to be so vague and multifaceted that they become much more open to interpretation and speculation than, say, what the words “lightning strike” mean.

There is the notion of “omnism” or “religious pluralism,” or that all religions are essentially true and can be respected. Yet, we know that Hinduism and Daoism and Christianity and Islam et al are not the same thing. Personally, I believe that God speaks more than one language, and therefore speaks more than one religion. Yet, these “religions” are not inherently the same thing, and they differ greatly, sometimes not resembling each other in any way whatsoever. In fact, some religions are so different, it is hard to comprehend how they can essentially be the same thing.

Thus, why would we expect anything different in the ancient world? The Cult of Isis was a Greco-Roman cult that appropriated an Egyptian goddess into a Roman cult via Greece. The Cult at Samothrace is a Chthonic religious cult, similar to the Cult at Lemnos, but essentially different, and probably both rooted in some neo-Hittite cult. These differ from the numerous cults of Mithras, a vast number of different civic associations of Roman soldiers that worshipped the Romanization of a minor Persian god, Mithras. These differ still from the various cults of Jesus Christ. When talking about the different forms of Christianity in the early centuries, we will call unorthodox cults as being “heresy,” coming from the Latin haeresis, literally meaning “choice [of belief].” These Christian cults can be very wild, such as the various “gnostic” sects, which were not a singular Christian movement, but rather a catch-all category of Christian heretics.

Let us clear something up before proceeding. When I say “cult,” I do not mean it in its current derogatory conception, but rather the sociological conception of a religious group that is very new, in which the vast majority of its members were not born into this religious group. The group is usually formed in protest of a particular institutional religion, and then as more members join it, it becomes a cult, and as more people are born into this cult, it becomes a denomination of an institutional religion. (See the work of Howard P. Becker).

Understanding how cults arise, how different religions can be, and questioning whether or not these are all religions or if we have no other word to describe all these different spiritual movements, we return to how Masons can presume all these different cults can be the same thing, of which Freemasonry is an inheritor thereof.

When dealing with the complex and vague language of symbols, which do not establish a particular reality, but rather deny reality, we can read whatever we want into them. This is why we can find anything from any mystery cult of the ancient world and point to it, saying, “That’s Masonic!” But is it?

I believe the cults of Mithras are the best case study for this phenomenon. The reason is that the Mithraic cults are the mystery cults of the ancient world that we know the most about. St. Jerome, Porphyry, Origen, and others write about this cult. We have graffiti and sculptural representations of their rites and myth cycle. Of all the ancient mystery cults, the cults of Mithras are the ones that we know the most about. Contrast this to the Cult at Eleusis, in which the best we can describe their rites is that there were “things done,” “things shown,” and “things said.” That is, like, super duper clear. Thanks, archaeologists!

The great central image of the Mithraic cults, the Tauroctony, is probably one of the best examples. This image depicts Mithras slaying the bull. Here Mithras represents the sun conquering the dark (the bull’s crescent horns being associated with the moon). Flanking each side of this scene are two figures, Cautes and Cautopates, the former with a raised torch and the other with a lower torch, representing the winter and summer solstices, respectively. They represent the extremes of the sun, being low and cold, and being high and hot. But Mithras is in the middle, representing a balance between the extremes (for more on the astrological interpretation of this image, I recommend the works of the Mithraic scholar Roger Beck). If an interpretation of that image sounds familiar to something in Masonry, you are on the right page: this is the interpretation of the circumpunct bounded by two perpendicular parallel lines. The point within the circle is the classic symbol of the sun, while the parallel lines represent the Holy Saints John, who represent the extremes of the summer and winter solstices, and that we should seek a balance between.

So, do we presume the Mithraic cults are a precursor to Freemasonry? I do not see how we could. The cults of Mithras were stomped out by Theodosius I in the 4th century. The European economy would not become sophisticated enough to support the guild system until the 9th and 10th centuries, and even then, we do not see the earliest stonemason guilds until the 11th century. How could there be a connection over a seven-hundred-year gap? Esoteric speculations of these groups hiding out in secret are more on brand for conspiracy theorists than anything academically tenable. But the similarity of the symbols of the Tauroctony and the circumpunct is quite strong — and I will admit that they are strikingly similar, if not astoundingly similar in conception and interpretation. However, we are letting the language of symbols cloud our judgment when we presume that just because two different groups thought up the same thing, then they must be linked, when in fact there is no solid (or even flimsy) evidence to support such.

Years ago I gave a lecture at a Masonic symposium on the subject of the similarities between the cults of Mithras and Freemasonry, and I prefaced the talk with the firm assertion that there is no link between the two. They have a lot of similarities, but just as many differences. To illustrate my point of how two cultures can have something very similar and be so remote in time and geography that there is no way to connect the two, I used the example of Yggdrasil and the contemporary Navajo sandpainting “The Healing Way,” both of which have striking similarities. They have three roots, three levels, three branches or ears of corn, a rainbow bridge, and a bird on top. However, the Norse could not have had any contact with the Navajo. That is preposterous. Yet several Masons in the room started speculating how Vikings could have come across the Atlantic and transmitted across indigenous American tribes to eventually get to the American Southwest. And I just put my face in my hands. I was just trying to illustrate how crazy it would be to presume that there could be a link between the two groups, and here you all are trying to connect them!

If even simple language can deceive us, then symbols are like a trickster god. Symbols as a language are the chief deceivers of esoteric exploration. When we find two or more similar symbols, we are compelled to find links, even making up links, to try and force a connection that is not there. It is fun to explore such things, and even enjoyable to speculate, but at the end of the day, we need to reel ourselves back in and consider the reality of a reasonable connection or just wishful thinking.

Seeker beware.


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.


by Midnight Freemason Managing Editor
WB Darin A. Lahners


I have recently been faced with a dilemma. As the managing editor of the Midnight Freemasons blog for the past several years, I have been trying to keep the blog afloat by either recycling old material, writing my own material for the blog, or begging for contributions.  When Todd Creason started the blog on October 7, 2009, I don't think he knew that it would grow into what it is today, which is a blog that gets over 40000 hits a month (not that numbers matter), and has served as one of, if not the premier Masonic blogs on the internet.  However, the job of being the Blog's editor is time-consuming, thankless, and sometimes frustrating. Todd did this job for a long time, Robert Johnson took over from Todd and served as well, and I came on as an assistant editor, and then graduated to become the Managing Editor. 

However, a blog is only as good as the material it is providing. I had tried to keep the blog on a regular schedule of its Monday/Wednesday/Friday publication.  However, unfortunately, contributions to the blog started to dry up, so I started to recycle old material on the blog.  I switched to publishing on Wednesday, thinking that would help keep the blog fresh and that I wouldn't encounter the issue the blog is currently facing, which is, a lack of contributions.   I began to think that it was time to say goodbye, and maybe it still is, I don't know.  What I do know is that I sent an email to Todd basically saying that we're not getting new material and we should probably just stop the whole thing.  Something happened shortly after I sent the email to Todd. 

I was at Villa Grove High School in Villa Grove, Illinois to support Heritage High School's Scholastic Bowl team in the Masonic Academic Bowl when I was introduced to a Mason from Tuscola, Illinois who asked if I was the guy who wrote for the Midnight Freemasons blog.  I  said that I was, and he commented about how much he liked the blog. So, I took it as a sign from the Great Architect that I still needed to labor in the quarry of this blog.   However, I also need to make better use of my 24-inch gauge.  

I recognize that the blog is a repository of great articles, all of which can be used for Masonic Education.  However, I also recognize that the blog isn't getting contributors to contribute like it once did.  I don't want to be forever known as the guy who killed the Midnight Freemasons blog, but I also have to recognize that the blog doesn't need to have an article every week to still serve its purpose as a repository for Masonic Educational material.  So, henceforth, when I have a new contribution, we will publish it. I don't know when that will be.  But if something happens in the world of Freemasonry and spurs articles, we will be here.  

To help make the dissemination of information on the blog easier, I will be trying to find a new theme that will allow better search or indexing, so please be patient as you may see the blog look different in the coming days as I look into this.  To quote one of the articles here: "We're not dying, we're refining".   

I'd like to thank all of the men and women who have contributed to the blog up to this point. I'd also like to thank the readers. If you are interested in helping refine the blog, please submit your material to:  

Are the so-called “Higher” Degrees actually Symbolic? or Sorcery? Part 2 of a series

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Patrick Dey

In the first part to this essay, we looked at what symbols are from a philosophical point of view, largely relying on Jean Baudrillard’s conception of them as a simulacrum, a distortion that conceals reality, because symbols deny that reality can ever be faithfully expressed and thus must generate a signifier that stands in owing to this absence. I personally favor Baudrillard’s conception of what symbols are, and I find his system of the four orders of simulacra to be helpful in understanding Symbolic Craft Masonry as it transitions into the so-called “higher” degrees.

As was discussed in the conclusion of Part I, we looked at how we as Free and Accepted Masons are symbolic craftsmen, symbolic stonemasons building symbolic temples, which at once conceals the reality of the stonemason guild heritage we have inherited and denies that the reality of the stonemasons of old can be fully expressed as a reflection in ourselves. But the so-called higher degrees in Masonry — Scottish Rite, York Rite, Shrine, et cetera — are a different problem. Royal Arch Masons are not a real thing. Nor are Select Masters, or the Order of the Red Cross, or the Knight of the East, or the Knight of the Sword, et cetera. These never existed. These are not real things. The only degrees of the appendant bodies that is based on something real are the Order of Malta and the Order of the Temple — the Knights Hospitallers and the Knights Templar. Sure, there are some things based on real orders, such as Saint Thomas of Acon. Then there are some weird ones, like the Masonic Rosicrucians, which did not really exist, but rather was a sort of literary fiction of millenarianism and a call for a greater reformation that the Protestant Reformation failed to achieve. Rosicrucians were believed to have been real for a long time, but today we know historically they did not actually exist.

This is no longer symbolic in the way the Blue Lodge Degrees are symbolic. In fact, they fall specifically into what Baudrillard designates as the third order of simulacra, one that “masks the absence of a profound reality.” He calls this order the “order of sorcery,” as it merely “plays being an appearance.” It conjures a reality that never actually existed.

This is exactly what these higher degrees are: they conjure something that never even existed, be it a Knight of the East and West or a Most Excellent Master, and claims we are now the symbolic manifestation of this title. The symbolic has to be based on something real, something that will yield a sign that may be utilized. A symbol has meaning — in fact, it has many meanings; it is a plethora. It is so much a plethora of meanings that it cannot claim to faithfully represent everything, and that the symbol must stand in for a reality that is inexpressible. Not so with sorcery. It makes up a reality. It conjures appearances like the sorcerer conjures spirits and shades of the dead. The sorcerer does not call upon a real person and they show up in the flesh, but rather calls up the shadowy image of someone who no longer is, or something that never existed, like a demon or an angel (note: Baudrillard is a Post Structuralist philosopher, an atheist, and in particular Nietzschean in that he follows the principle that God is dead).

This is the trap hidden within the higher degrees of Masonry: that these degrees are symbolic or based on something that actually existed, when in fact we know deep down there was never any such thing as a Perfect Master or Master of the Symbolic Lodge — I mean that Scottish Rite Degree right there fully embodies this very simulacrum: there could not have been a real Master of the Symbolic Lodge because the Symbolic Lodge is by its name symbolic of an actual real lodge, and the Master of such cannot be based on anything real. One becomes a symbolic Master of the Symbolic Lodge is simply ridiculous. It does not need a reality to pretend that it is real.

Much the same can be said about offices and titles within the Masonic bodies themselves.

I suppose since we’re here, we might as well discuss the fourth order simulacrum, in which this is something that does not even need reality, it does not care if there is a reality, it is pure simulation. It neither needs to reflect, conceal, or deny reality, it is what is now real. It is “hyperreal.” It produces without regard for reality whatsoever. The best way I can describe this is in “content creation” on social media platforms. You may have found videos on YouTube that make you start to lose your sense of direction as to what this video even accomplishes: something like a reaction video to a critique video of an analysis video of a movie that is loosely based on historical events. Sometimes you find reaction videos to reaction videos to… you get it. What is even happening here? Are we creating videos just to create videos? Looking for any excuse to upload content to generate views and reactions and comments so advertisements have a place to sell us stuff we don’t need? And what do we call these people? “Content creators.” It is not about creating something visionary or artistic or original or to explore something meaningful, but to simply create content for the sake of creating content. This dives into what Baudrillard calls “hyperreal,” “hyperproduction,” and such terms.

If I had to designate anything in Masonry that meets this hyperreality of the fourth order of simulacra, it would be the endless proliferation of more Masonic bodies, more offices, more committees, more degrees, more dues cards, more, more, more. We all know these kinds of Masons. It is not about what they can contribute to Masonry, what they get out of Masonry, or even what they enjoy about Masonry, but the accumulation of titles and offices for the sake of accumulating titles and offices. We have lost any semblance of the origins of Freemasonry, and in fact, we no longer care. We have lost any vestige of what it means to be a Mason, and what makes a man and Mason, and who we are supposed to be as Masons, and really we no longer care. The real value, the most precious meaning that underlines all of the Masonic institution, it no longer makes a difference. It is the endless accumulation of as mabt accolades as possible just so we can have them, and any regard for the real value that makes Masonry what it is, it simply is not regarded.

I am certain that if Baudrillard were alive today, he would shake his head and say “Patrick, please stop doing this to my work.” And I am probably stretching his philosophy to match some criticism I have of Masonry that he would hate me for. Yet, it is exactly what I saw myself falling into as I continued to move forward in Masonry. I originally wanted to only do esoteric research and writing when I became a Mason. I wanted to know what the Masons knew so that it may further my studies. And as the years went on, I found myself more and more concerned with being in officer lines, and accepting any invitation to a Masonic body that came my way. I found myself driving everywhere across the State of Colorado every night doing something, and none of it was fun. Most of it was boring, and furthermore, I only ever seemed to complain about everything I had to go to. Then the Covid lockdown happened and suddenly I had an opportunity to reassess why I was doing any of this anyway. Then I was married, and then I became a father, and that happened within a very short period. I realize that none of this was what I wanted to do when I became a Mason. I was so far away from what gave me joy, that I became a miserable person chasing titles and offices. That was when I started to revisit things I enjoyed: reading, writing, studying, research, philosophy, mysticism, et cetera. I revisited Baudrillard’s work, because — well, firstly, because I was doing research on Douglas Darden, and I wanted to get a better idea of how Baudrillard influenced his architectural designs — but secondly, because something about Baudrillard resonated with how I was feeling. There was something “unreal” or even “hyperreal” about chasing titles and offices.

This essay has been an attempt (essay) at describing the dangers I feel are inherent in the so-called higher degrees, and especially in the chasing of titles and offices. Is that why you became a Mason? It is not why I became a Mason, and it took becoming miserable for me to realize that. For me, it started with something symbolic.

The symbolic is not dangerous unto itself, so long as we recognize it for what it is: a concealment of a reality that cannot be fully expressed, and so it must deny reality and create an image that substitutes the reality that is not expressible. There is joy in the symbolic, because symbols are useful. That is the power of Masonic symbolism: they are useful to us, and we should always be endeavoring to further explore and utilize the power they hold. But beyond the symbolic, what value is there? Is there a value to chasing degrees that are based on nothing that ever existed? Do they even serve a purpose or have utility? Or is their only utility the obtaining of those degree titles? Is that what Masonry is about? Does that even serve the individual Mason, or does it even serve the fraternity itself?

Some of these Masons I have known, and I have asked them: “Why do you do this?” And I have heard quite a few respond with: “It is the only way I will matter.” With that, I want to hang my head and sob.

Me personally, it does not matter, and that is why I resigned from a number of officer lines, including a Grand Line, and turned down other appointments to other lines, and demitted from several bodies, and turned down invitations to other bodies. I love the symbolic. It is what brought me into Masonry, and anything beyond the symbolic is probably not for me. I suppose there are Masons who just enjoy helping and being a part of things, and so any opportunity to participate and help, they say “yes!” Don’t get me wrong, because I love the “yes! Masons.”

All I advise is to assess why you became a Mason. You do not have to keep the same goals you had when you became a Mason. Everyone grows and changes over the years, and that is wonderful. But are you being true to yourself as a Mason? The value and meaning in these things are all that matters. Truly. And if you lose sight of what is real and meaningful to you as an individual. If being a title-seeker is the only way to make your life meaningful, then something was missed along the way.

I do not want to blame Masonry for the fault of people. Masonry did not create the problem of title-seeking and abandoning many men in the desert of the real. People do that in everything, be it Masonry, YouTube videos, politics, yoga, church, bridge clubs, Google Earth photo-locations, Wikipedia entries, name it. This happens in everything. Seriously, did you know that if you upload enough photos and locate them in Google Earth, you get invited to a secret Google club? I know a former Mason who became infatuated with this. I digress. Masonry did prove to be fertile grounds for this kind of phenomenon to occur.

Without a conductor to follow and put our trust in, sometimes, many times, this Masonic journey becomes uncertain. O Mother Lodge, how far we’ve wandered. From that blindfolded interim where we had no way of conducting ourselves, uncertain of our future, we had to trust someone else, and now we are our own conductors, and I personally feel too many good men and Masons have fallen into a trap that is neither meaningful to themselves or Masonry.

To conclude, I will simply say: never lose sight of what you believe in. It is the difference between a trap into a meaningless desert and what provides you with a meaningful existence.


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.

Secret Charity

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Jim Stapleton

Several years ago, I heard the following story of Masonic charity from an older Brother:


A Lodge put together boxes of food to donate to families in need. After the boxes were assembled, the Lodge members set out into the community and distributed the boxes on porches of people they knew to be in need. When the boxes were discovered at the houses, the recipients were surprised by the good deeds. Overwhelmed with joy, they checked to see the source of the food. However, when they looked to see where the boxes came from, there were no notes attached. There was nothing to identify the source of the baskets. So, the families had no idea who had bestowed the gifts, making it a complete mystery..


Upon hearing the tale, a Brother that was listening asked why such a generous and selfless act was kept a secret? He said that from a public relations perspective, Masons should work to actively promote these kinds of positive stories. The response from the older Mason was that this is what Masons do and that we don’t seek out praise when performing charity. 


I understand the sentiment but with all due respect to that Brother, I am not sure if I totally agree with that idea. Yes, there are definitely some situations where we would want to be discreet. We don’t want to embarrass people in need or to seem opportunistic. For example, a Brother that has fallen on some hard times might struggle paying their Lodge dues. As a result they might seek out assistance from their Worshipful Master or Secretary regarding the payment of dues. We shouldn’t be broadcasting that info so that everyone knows about those individual situations. That should be kept private between those Brothers. 


In the example about the food baskets, drawing attention to the people that received the gifts could be extremely embarrassing for them. Revealing their identities would clearly be wrong, especially if they did not give their consent. We should always strive to help those in need while also preserving their dignity. However, should we keep our charitable works completely hidden? Don’t we have a duty as a Fraternity to let the public know that we are doing good works? Are we missing a chance to demonstrate the true nature of the Fraternity? Sadly, we live in a world where many in our society either have no awareness that Freemasons exist, or only know of us through conspiracy theories.


One possible approach to the basket distribution would have been to take pictures of the assembled baskets that could have been shared via social media. Those pictures could have included captions stating that the Brothers were going to distribute the food to families experiencing food insecurity. If such images were shared in online community groups, it would have been a guaranteed way to receive positive exposure and to let people know that we exist. Perhaps it could have even resulted in interest from potential candidates looking for ways to help others.


My Lodge participates in an Adopt a Highway program where we go out and clean a section of highly traveled road several times a year. Usually when we are out collecting trash we take pictures and post them to our social media accounts. Then we share the info through the local community’s social media groups to let people know that we exist AND that we are helping to improve and beautify the environment. The feedback is usually very positive and full of gratitude. It shows that Masons care.


Of course, we should avoid the appearance of bragging or coming off as insincere. That would be tasteless and inappropriate. Our messages regarding our charity should be authentic so that we have a genuine connection with those around us. As many in our Fraternity are concerned about membership levels,  it does not seem that as an organization we should let opportunities to demonstrate our benevolence slip by quietly. We should proudly highlight our good deeds.


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.