Whose Line Is It Anyway?

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by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Nicholas Wennerström, 32

One of my favorite television shows of all time with one of the finest actors of all time; Wayne Brady (pending further review). The audience shouts out phrases and words and the contestants engage in a timeless form of comedy to finish: short-form improvisation.

Freemasonry has a similar tenant as improvisation does. The history, impetus, and origin are often speculative; even university professors cannot quite pinpoint fully, all that is Freemasonry. With no head of the modern Fraternity in America or around the world, much of Freemasonry is indeed speculative.

A word I never heard until I joined the Fraternity is esoteric. It’s a word that simply means exclusive or only known to one or a select few. While we have a written catechism and ritual to follow and by-laws to conduct Lodge and Grand Lodge business, the remaining parts are esoteric. No authority truly holds any of the so-called ‘mystics’ of the Fraternity true, so it’s left to individuals to write about our history, heritage and lore based on their own interpretation of it. Sure, we have facts such as which US Presidents and other notables were Masons and it is a matter of fact as to who founded Shriners and Scottish Rite and where the first formal Lodge was built in England. However, the meaning of the rituals and more are subjective. I wrote several months ago that the secrets of Freemasonry truly lie within the individual. I submit the same is true for the essence of Masonry.

There is often talk amongst Brothers as to who does what and how much. What does it mean to be a Mason and at times, are you ‘Masonic’ enough? We have a progression line to Worshipful Master but there is an almost life meter in some circles as to the who, how, how much and why as to the motivation of some Brothers. Service and civility are a hallmark of the Fraternity yet the work itself unfortunately can come second to who did it and how much.

I am a lifelong member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. We believe our relationship with God is one on one and only faith not works can lead to salvation. The same I believe applies to Masonry. Your belief in a God is enough for us, whether it’s Allah, God or Yahweh, your relationship is singular. Only when humankind gets involved do things get awry. Masonry is no different.

My membership to the Lodge and the Fraternity is mine alone. I can read, write and study Masonry but what I put in to it is the Lodge is up to me. No one else. I can choose to be pragmatic like a good Treasurer should be or deep in Masonic Education. No matter my cause, initiative or sustained membership, I determine my path. No one else. In fact, we are encouraged to wander with no specific path. Anyone who tells you otherwise or questions your motives should check the original petition.

There are many reminders contained in our modern lexicon that come from Masonry: ‘getting the 3rd degree’, ‘squared away’, ‘level set’. The one we can do away with is ‘have you paid your dues?’

Bro. Nicholas Wennerström, 32 is a Master Mason out of the 1st NE District of Illinois and Treasurer of Libertyville lodge #492. He is also a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Chicago and York Rite Chapter 41 in Waukegan. He is a father of two boys and devoted husband and currently suffers from Benjamin Buttons disease.

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Whence Came You? – 0315 – The Royal Art of Freemasonry Exclusive Interview

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Join us this week with an exclusive interview with Brothers, Johnny Royal and Robert Doan, the Brothers behind the new film “The Royal Art of Freemasonry”. A film project 7 years in the making, and it’s about to drop. App extras include an exclusive Masonic wallpaper for your mobile device. Get all the details right now! Thanks for listening and have an amazing week!

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Absolute Power

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


Power corrupts. Absolute power, they say, corrupts absolutely. We in Freemasonry, however, elect men to whom we then hand absolute… well, nearly absolute power. Apparently, that’s the way we like it.

Not long ago I had dinner with a Brother who was indignant at the fact a Grand Master had expelled an officer out of the Grand Line, “He can’t do that!”

What do you mean he can’t do that? He’s the Grand Master. I’m not a bylaws expert but I believe he was well within his rights to do it. The expelled member, in fact, was appointed, not elected. I then gave the Brother a couple examples I’ve seen where a Grand Master and a Master of the Lodge of Research each had expelled elected line officers. We actually had one Grand Master who said no Lodge could have its own website and ordered all of them taken down. Can’t do that? Of course they can. And do.

Absolute power — it’s practically an aphrodisiac. You’ve been Master of your Lodge? You’ve had it, felt it, embraced it. Some use it wisely; some abuse it. Still, face the facts, we as Freemasons elect a benevolent (we hope) dictator.

When I was Master of my Lodge I tried to be reasonable as I swam in the seductive waters of absolute power. Oh, I made an “executive decision” now and then but all-in-all I think I controlled myself. Well, I controlled myself until…

…Monday, September 20, 2004. It was a week before Grand Lodge and three weeks before my final meeting as Master. I had practically the entire year behind me. I had wielded absolute power with a gentle hand but its siren song now called louder and louder. I was Clark Kent wanting to jump into a phone booth and become Superman. I was Thor unable to resist the pent-up urge to hurl thunderbolts. I was me, crazed, wide-eyed and drooling, ready to unleash my venom on the innocent, unsuspecting world of my Brothers.

“I’m going to do it,” I told myself, resigned to the criticism that would surely follow. Who cares… I’m the Master, Captain Marvel, Iron Man, the Hulk, all rolled into one. I can do what I want. Damn the torpedoes, full-speed-ahead.

The unremarkable meeting neared its end. Business over, the Brothers sat on the sidelines ready for the standard closing. My next line, “Brother Senior Warden,” which would set things in motion, never came.

Instead, I stood and rapped my gavel on the podium three times. The Brothers rose from their seats. I turned to my left, “Brother Chaplain, you will lead us in prayer.”

The Chaplain was a little rattled. “What prayer,” he whispered.

“The closing prayer.”

“Supreme Architect of the Universe,” he began and then ended with his usual flourish.

Then, awash in the intoxicating flood of absolute power, completely within my rights to do so, I skipped all other closing ceremonies, “Brethren, by the power vested in me as its Worshipful Master, I declare Liberty Lodge number 31 duly closed!” By God, I’m the Master. I have the authority. I can do it that way, and I did it. Live with it.

I gave a single rap of the gavel and waited for the onslaught of criticism that was about to come. I was ready. Give me your best shot.

Sometimes, in the ebb and flow of events, things don’t happen exactly as we expect. Some call this “the law of unintended consequences.” The thing is we usually think of that law implying a negative outcome where a positive outcome is expected.

Well, something unexpected happened here, but it was the opposite. I truly had expected a negative outcome. Instead, the entire Lodge erupted in cheers. Although the Brothers were already standing, I think it counted as a standing ovation.

Who knew giving in to the allure of absolute power could make a guy so popular? Or maybe they were just happy they could get to that second helping of dessert a little sooner. So mote it be.

~SLH
Bro. Steve Harrison, 33° is Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri. He is the editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine, author of the book Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi, a Fellow of the Missouri Lodge of Research and also its Worshipful Master. He is a dual member of Kearney Lodge #311, St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite, Moila Shrine and a member and Past Dean of the DeMolay Legion of Honor. Brother Harrison is a regular contributor to the Midnight Freemasons blog as well as several other Masonic publications. His latest book, Freemasons: Tales From the Craft & Freemasons at Oak Island. Both are available on amazon.com.

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Here I Go Again On My Own…Jusg Kidding

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by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson


About this time last year, I was about ready to hop in my friend and Brother’s car to ride down to Grand Lodge Sessions. In fact, I wrote about it and you can read it here. This time around, we’re heading down via the train. A time-honored tradition. This year there are several Masons from the 1st Northeastern district taking the train. We’re taking the Metra to the historic Chicago Union Station, where we’ll meet up in the executive lounge and then take the train down via business class. If all goes well, business class will be full of Freemasons.
I’m really looking forward to the trip this year. Last year I went down as the last year of being a District Education Officer, and would be installed as a District Deputy Grand Master. This year, I’m going down as and remaining a DDGM. I’m looking forward to the fellowship and taking lots of pictures. In fact, I’ll hopefully documenting the entire experience with my instamatic camera. I hope to capture some great moments. 
Recently, I’ve been remembering some of the hobbies I left behind when I became extraordinarily active within the craft. I’ve been sitting down and playing guitar again, but also, and elven more so, I’ve been getting back into photography. I was a photographer and lab technician for almost eight years, ten years ago! Being inspired by Greg Knott’s photos, seeing some of the great shots from our TMR-Con and the photos from the lates MRF symposium, lead me to get back in the saddle. 
One thing however, was over all, most responsible. When Scott Dueball decided it was time to buy a new lens for his Canon, I made a recommendation, a fixed 50mm. Seeing him get into it and taking pictures of his new baby,  made me remember the thrill and fun of taking pictures. So, here I go again…but not alone by any means. See you all down at Grand Lodge.
~RHJ
RWB, Robert Johnson is the Managing Editor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He is a Freemason out of the 1st N.E. District of Illinois. He currently serves as the Secretary of Waukegan Lodge No. 78 where he is a Past Master. He also serves as the District Deputy for the 1st N.E. District of Illinois. Brother Johnson currently produces and hosts weekly Podcasts (internet radio programs) Whence Came You? & Masonic Radio Theatre which focus on topics relating to Freemasonry. He is also a co-host of The Masonic Roundtable, a Masonic talk show. He is a husband and father of four, works full time in the executive medical industry and is also an avid home brewer. He is currently working on a book of Masonic essays and one on Occult Anatomy to be released soon.

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A Mason’s Pay

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by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Anonymous

Editors Note – The Midnight Freemasons has always been about telling the story of Freemasonry. Sometimes that’s through historical pieces, sometimes through the exploration of esoteric concepts but mostly, it’s been told through our individual experiences. Recently a close friend and Brother came to me with a piece which I found to be wonderful. It’s emotional, thought provoking and real. He asked me to publish it anonymously. It is not my policy to publish anonymous works. With this piece, we take exception. I hope you enjoy, and more importantly, I hope you feel it.

———————————–


We learn from our traditions that the wages of our ancient Brethren were corn, wine, and oil.  As I look at the dwindling attendance at our meetings, fundraisers, and social gatherings, I wonder if, like many other historical and spiritual texts, this lesson is being interpreted too literally.  Food and drink are increasingly becoming the centerpiece to our gatherings.  Don’t get me wrong, there can be great benefit to breaking bread with our Brothers.  The discussions, not the food, should be the centerpiece.  Now I’m hearing that the best way to attract members is to offer free meals to the Brothers.  Is that the only reason a Brother will attend?  How long will it be before we are paying our members to show up?  What is truly, a Mason’s pay?  Have we become, as Masons, only willing to help out the Lodge or Community as long as we get something material immediately back in return?  I refuse to be that way.
Truth be told, I do get far more from the Lodge than I put in, but not in any tangible form like a paycheck or certificate. My payment is different. It’s a deep friendship with the men whom I call Brothers. It’s personal growth in learning to be a leader in all walks of life. It’s the impromptu late-night discussions of philosophy with the Brothers that can’t pull themselves away. Its cheering on a Brother’s daughter in the local Special Olympics. Its learning that vegans can’t eat donuts. It’s opening my mind to new spiritual events like an Autumn Equinox Observance. Its watching our Shriner clown Brother finally get that one shy toddler at the local town fair to laugh. It’s seeing a candidate taking his first Obligation, and remembering when I was reciting those same words. It’s seeing Brethren enjoy a meal that I helped to prepare. It’s meeting the community at the CHiPs events. It’s seeing the smile on a child’s face in the hospital on Christmas Eve. And yes, it is of course getting compliments from the nurses during that same Christmas Eve visit.  The list goes on…
The emotional and spiritual payment I receive from Masonry is far more than corn, wine, and oil.  I know I’m not alone, but I see fewer and fewer men seeking light on their own. If a man doesn’t step forward and knock, what makes us think he will step forward for charity or self-improvement?  Do we better serve the world as small philosophical clubs, or should we expand and pull in more men in hopes that they find their own non-material wages?  Just as an addict can’t recover unless they admit they have a problem, we will never be able to seek the light, unless we first recognize the darkness within.

~Anonymous

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Whence Came You? – 0314 – Looking Back

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Join us this week as we read a piece from 2012 by a then, Fellowcraft. We also have a great piece from Darin Lahners of the Midnight Freemasons as well! App extras include the paper we read as well as a Masonic wallpaper for your mobile device. Thanks for listening and have a great week!

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The Odd Fellows And The Freemasons: Different Paths To The Same Goal

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by Midnight Freemasons Founder
Todd E. Creason, 33°
I originally wrote this piece for the Odd Fellows after I visited Tuscola Odd Fellows Lodge No. 316.  They published it on September 22, 2017 on their Heart in Hand blog.  I thought I’d share it here as well.  I get questions about the Odd Fellows from time to time.  In fact I wrote a piece back in 2015 on the subject called Are The Odd Fellows Part of Freemasonry?   I’d like to thank again Ainslie Heilich and the members of Tuscola Odd Fellows Lodge No. 316 for their time and hospitality.  Our two organizations have similar goals and similar challenges, and as I suspected in the beginning, there are things we can certainly learn from each other.  We’ve both been around a long, long time. ~TEC
I’m not an Odd Fellow.  I’m a Freemason.  You’re probably wondering what in the world I’m doing here.  Well, let me tell you how I came to be here.  It’s an interesting story.
I’m the Worshipful Master of Homer Lodge No. 199 in Homer, Illinois—that’s the same as a Noble Grand in the Odd Fellows.  During my term as Master, I want to try and make our meetings a little more interesting by adding an education component to each and every one of our regular meetings.  Sometimes as Freemasons, we get so involved with our business meetings (reading minutes, and hearing committee reports) we forget why we’re supposed to be there to begin with.  The purpose of Freemasonry is to make good men better. We strive to improve our character, to learn to live a more virtuous and moral life, and as a result of these improvements to ourselves, we become better husbands, fathers, citizens, and community leaders. 
There are Masonic libraries full of writings about Freemasonry, but sadly, other than the lessons and allegories from our ritual initiation ceremonies, many of our Masonic Lodges these days have gotten away from teaching the application of these principles into our daily lives.  There’s been a real push to bring those teachings back.  That’s what I wanted to introduce into our meetings at Homer Lodge—some deeper discussion into the self-improvement aspects of Freemasonry, the history, the esoteric teachings, and the symbolism found in our ritual traditions. 
It occurred to me while I was scheduling speakers and topics for discussion, that there might be lessons Odd Fellows and Freemasons could learn from each other.  When I’d mentioned the possibility of inviting the Odd Fellows to join us during one of our meetings, it was obvious there was a great deal of curiosity amongst Freemasons about the Odd Fellows.  Our members were interested to see where our two organizations are the same, and where they are different.
So we invited Ainslie Heilich, the Noble Grand of Tuscola Odd Fellows Lodge No. 316 to join us one evening in July to talk about the Odd Fellows.  As it turns out, our organizations are very similar in some areas, and very different in others.  Both modern Freemasonry and the Odd Fellows came into existence around the same time, the 18th century, and both came from the workers guilds—the Freemasons worked in stone, and the Odd Fellows were the “general contractors” of their time.  Both groups made a transition from being “operative” craftsmen to “speculative” craftsmen—as Freemasons will often say, we stopped building structures, and started building communities.  However, what we learned from Ainslie was that Freemasons and Odd Fellows have very different ways of going about that similar goal.
The Odd Fellows put the emphasis on service—doing good works in their community.  Through the performance of good works the Odd Fellows improve the world they live in, and improve their character through the process of giving of themselves.
The Freemasons on the other hand put the emphasis on self-improvement first—as the ancient stonemasons did in shaping stones, we work to create in ourselves a perfect stone for building by knocking off the rough and superfluous parts of our character.  In the Freemason tradition, charity and public service are the nature result of character and leadership development. 
Now that’s a bit of an oversimplification, but what the Freemasons and the Odd Fellows do have in common is a desire to make the world a better place through our contributions to it.  The Freemasons and the Odd Fellows have a long history of attracting industrious individuals, and in building strong communities.
A couple weeks after the Odd Fellows visited us in our Masonic Lodge, I found myself climbing the steps of Tuscola Odd Fellows Lodge No. 316 with my two principle officers.  We were given the grand tour, and we learned as much from Ainslie about the Odd Fellows as I hope we taught him about the Freemasons during his visit.  And all three of us petitioned to be members of the Tuscola Odd Fellows Lodge.  I’m looking forward to learning as much about the Odd Fellows as I have about the Freemasons.
There’s a lot of talk these days that organizations such as ours are slowly dying out, and one day in the not-so-distant future, we’ll be relegated to the ash heap of history.  I don’t believe that for one minute.  All you have to do is visit Homer Masonic Lodge No. 199 or Tuscola Odd Fellows Lodge No. 316 to see that our ancient societies are very much alive and well. 
There will always be in our society, that small group of individuals who are willing to serve the greater good.  Those individuals who don’t just talk about making the world a better place, but actually roll up their sleeves and get to work to make it so. 
And in that, the Freemasons and the Odd Fellows aren’t so different after all.
~TEC
Todd E. Creason, 33° is the Founder of the Midnight Freemasons blog and is a regular contributor.  He is the award winning author of several books and novels, including the Famous American Freemasons series. He is the author of the From Labor to Refreshmentblog.  He is the Worshipful Master of Homer Lodge No. 199 and a Past Master of Ogden Lodge No. 754.  He is a Past Sovereign Master of the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees.  He is a Fellow at the Missouri Lodge of Research. (FMLR) and a charter member of a new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter U.D.  You can contact him at: [email protected]

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