By Karen Kidd, PM
(I speak only for me)
Freemasons, of all stripes, generally pride themselves on tolerance. They view themselves as philosophically advanced, are often charitable and, generally, would not dream of suppressing anyone.
Except each other.
I’ve observed situations in which Brothers from Obediences not in amity with each other dislike the other based on their Obedience. They make vague references to their Obligation, as if that ever would justify acting un-Masonically toward anyone. They, as often, find other ways to rationalize some strikingly irrational behavior.
I’m not an expert on Masonic Amity protocols, far from it. I am but a common Brother with no ambitions to ever be in such a position where I would need to understand those protocols.
What I am pretty good at is observation.
I’ve had more than a fair number of opportunities to observe Malecraft Freemasons. In particular, I’ve noticed Malecraft Freemasons often take a similar journey between their first encounter with a woman Freemason – or male Co-Mason for that matter – to accepting that such Freemasons exist.
This journey, in my observation, follows a series of stages, not all of which are always completed. Sometimes the sojourner remains in one stage, may skip a stage and they may regress to a previous stage. I’ve seen this enough to recognize that there are, in general, five stages and that they fall in a predictable order.
The stages, in my experience, are very like Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s five stages of dying and grief.
As I’ve observed them, the five Stages of a Malecraft Mason acceptance of Co-Masonry and Femalecraft Masonry are as follows.
Step One: Denial
“You can’t possibly be a Freemason”; “there are no women Freemasons,” and other such unintended insults.
Truly, some of these gentlemen have looked me in the eye and told me I don’t exist. If I’m the first Co-Mason they are faced with, and if they had no prior warning they would encounter me, this is the usually the first response.
I try not to debate reality with them at this point. It’s not *my* problem, and I won’t make it my problem. Very often, my contact with them ends here. No blood, no foul.
I do, however, know from experience what – if they don’t remain in this stage – will come next.
Step Two: Anger
This often follows quickly on the heels of denial. It carries with it illogical statements and not a few more – this time intended – insults. “This isn’t what I was told.” “This isn’t right.” “This isn’t fair.” “Why me?” “You’re out to get me.” “Someone violated their Obligation. . . .”
I usually make myself scarce at this stage. I’m no psychologist, and even if I wanted to debate it with them, they’re not interested in listening during this stage. I also don’t deal well with anger. So I remember that I’ve done nothing to be the target of it; it’s not my problem, and I won’t make it my problem.
Very often, my contact with them ends in this stage, and, so far as I know, they remain in this stage. Forever.
If I get away fast enough, there will be no blood, no foul.
Some of them, however, get in touch with me again; once they’ve moved on – on their own or, perhaps, with the help of other Brothers – to the next stage.
Step Three: Bargaining
Out of the blue, a Malecraft Mason who has acted toward me as a denying, angry Brother will re-establish contact me. At this point, they often inform me that they can accept me as a Brother under certain circumstances.
For instance, they’ll tell me they won’t share the secrets, and they won’t have “Masonic intercourse” with me (I always wonder if that would tickle). They may also list a number of other requirements; they can accept me as a Brother so long as their terms are respected.
Sometimes I’ll reply that I already know the secrets, and that he and I share them already regardless of whether he wants to get into them.
Mostly, though, I just let it go on from there. It’s not *my* problem, and I won’t make it my problem.
In my observation, there is roughly a 50-50 chance they will get in touch with me yet again. I’m cool if they do or they don’t. No Blood, no foul. This is a much cooler stage than anger, but I have seen them regress, so I’m not too pushy about keeping in touch with them during this stage. They’re on their own, so far as I’m concerned, but if the progress, they will arrive at the next stage.
Step Four: Soul Searching
Under the Kübler-Ross model, the fourth stage of dying and grief is depression. My observation with the average Malecraft Mason’s journey toward, and possibly to, acceptance of Femalecraft and Co-Masons is they do experience something akin to depression but it’s not depression. It’s more like a deep, introspective brooding. Sometimes they share it with me.
They wonder why they came to believe what they did about who their Brothers are. They ponder if they’d been intentionally fed misinformation or whether they just misunderstood. They wonder if what they learned before was in reference only to Malecraft Masonry and has no real bearing on Co-Masons or Femalecraft Masons. They might even refer to Albert Mackey’s assertion that women Freemasons, once made, cannot be unmade, but there are many ways to deny their rights and privileges as Freemasons.
The Malecraft Mason at this stage might wonder whether this is just, right, or fair.
If I debate or discuss such things with them at all, it will be during this stage. No, it’s not *my* problem, but at this stage, they are less likely, than in the other stages, to try to make it my problem. I can give full vent to every bit of fraternal compassion I feel for them without concern that I’ll be bloodied or fouled. I’m helping a Brother to, so far as he wants me to, understand himself. And that’s a good thing.
I know many Brothers who remain in this stage a very long time. There is one final stage.
Step Five: Acceptance
They get it.
It’s often at this stage the Malecraft Brother informs me, usually quite suddenly, that he has no issues with the existence of Co-Masonry or Femalecraft Masonry. Of course, we are all Brothers linked by the same mystic tie under the canopy of heaven, and he doesn’t understand why *I* have such a problem with it.
I still don’t think it’s my problem but maybe it is. Maybe I should give it some thought.
And so it goes.
Malecraft Masons aren’t alone in exhibiting this sort of baffling behavior. I’ve seen much the same when a group of Co-Masons meets with a group of Malecraft Masons for the first time. I’ve noticed that, very often, each group of Brothers at this initial meeting considers themselves superior to the other and firmly believes the other group agrees with their assessment. They also often assume the other group is grateful that they are talking at all, that the other group will commence an obligatory cow-tow, but real equality will have to be by consent of the “superior” group. It’s not meeting on the level but (shrug) it happens.
And things often get pretty tense from there.
I have also noticed that these bodies of Freemasons often will move through the same stages described above, now writ large; micro and macro.
Based on that observation, I’ve come to conclude that the five stages of Masonic acceptance will be the same at a far larger scale when un-amity-bound Masonic obediences begin talking to each other, as I suspect they eventually will. Will these conversations necessarily be bound to these five stages or will it be possible for those Brothers to actually meet on the level and act on the plumb?
They all know how to do that. Right?
Well, here’s hoping we can all find a way to at least get along and accept each other. 🙂