The Provincial Grand Lodge of Munster has released an updated edition of John Day’s “Memoir of the Lady Freemason” and I couldn’t be more excited about it.
Largely because the re-release contains a considerable lot about Day himself, about whom I previously knew only a little more than I do about Ralph P. Lester.
Oh, and I got to contribute to the appendix 🙂
The new edition was officially released during the kick off the Cork Heritage Week in County Cork, Ireland, in August. Amid the initial speeches and celebrations, the Provincial Grand Lodge of Munster Grand Librarian and Archivist, W.Bro. David J. Butler, presented the first copy of the fifth edition to The Rt. Hon. The Lord Mayor of Cork, Councilor John Sheehan.
For those who don’t already know, “Memoir of the Lady Freemason,” of which the first edition was prepared and published in 1914, is about as close to a definitive biography as we have about the life and times of Elizabeth St. Leger Aldworth. Though the Provincial Grand Lodge of Munster’s website still refers to Aldworth as “the only Lady Freemason” – they’ve always been very friendly and cordial with me – it’s more accurate to say she was the first known woman Freemason in the modern history of the Craft.
The Grand Lodge of California, the state’s largest male-only Masonic body, apparently has suddenly concluded that it’s OK with women and mixed Freemasons. Seriously, they’re very chill about it.
This has been evolving for years, but it really became obvious when the May/June edition of California Freemason was issued. The entire edition is dedicated to the long history of women in Freemasonry – that is, as Freemasons – and not-at-all taking the old Malecraft line of ignoring, downplaying, and denying that past, present, and future.
They’re not even being condescending about it. Whoa O.O
The May/June issue of California Freemason includes articles about the universal appeal of Freemasonry “to men and women alike,” feminine symbols that “are threaded into the very fabric of Freemasonry,” and stories about women Freemasons and Co-Masons active in the U.S. All the articles are written as if the women Freemasons have existed for centuries (they have); there’s no problem with that (there isn’t), and that it is something that obviously should be taken for granted (it should).
The edition seems to be doing it’s level best to pretend that this has been the norm all along and invites the reader to buy into that. As if there never was any other less pleasant time in which Malecraft writers marginalized, downplayed, and ignored women-only and mixed Freemasonry.
The message is clear: this is the new line, dear reader. Let us forget the old.
Well, 1) some of us never bought into the old line, and 2) this is all very well and good, but it’s making me, as a masonic historian, more than a little nervous.
We’ve been here before.
This is not the first time that Malecraft Masons in California have been OK with Femalecraft and mixed Masons. The last time it happened, it didn’t turn out so well.
There are more than a few brothers and sisters who don’t want me to talk about that history because things are going well right now in California, and my talking about the unpleasant past, apparently, could endanger that.
“Just let it go,” one Femalecraft Mason said to me very recently. “Don’t screw this up for us.”
“Everything of a disagreeable and painful sort was forgotten, or passed over lightly; and a certain delicacy of feeling made everyone refrain from disputes which might engender bitterness and re-open old sores.”1
I can even see something Masonic about that.
However, the historian in me is more than a little alarmed because we have been here before. I hope it doesn’t go bad again, in the same way or in any other, but I can’t take for granted that it won’t.
Not that I can do anything more than watch while I hope for the best. I am but a common brother, no one great in any order.
Still, I am impudent enough to ask the Masonic movers and shakers at the actual center of all of this – far from the periphery where I stand, watch and hope – to please, PLEASE, just bear the unpleasant past in mind; and, above all, be cautious.
At least as cautious as I am trying to be.
The Masonic Order to which I belong, the Honorable Order of Universal Co-Masonry, United Federation of Lodges2 today is easily the largest Co-Masonic body in North America. Since its Masonic divorce from Le Droit Humain in the 1990s, the Order has grown to the point that it’s approaching the numbers of other mixed bodies in the world and now itself has become an international body.
That growth is its own mostly unwritten history, but this blog will be focused, instead, on why the developments in California are giving me pause.
Universal Co-Masonry has its largest North American presence in California. In no other state or province (outside of Colorado, the state in which the Order’s headquarters is located), does the Order have more lodges of multiple bodies than in California. There are more Blue Lodges of Universal Co-Masonry in California than any other state, including Colorado.
Some of the earliest Lodges of the order were consecrated in California and, then as now, those Lodges tend(ed) to be among the strongest in the Order.
Perhaps that was partly why Bro. Louis Goaziou, a leading founder and President and Grand Commander of Co-Masonry in North America during the first part of the 20th century, tried to steer the Order toward closer relations with Malecraft Masonry in the U.S. His aim seems to have been more about détente and acknowledgment rather than full on amity, recognition and other front office agreements.
Such things, really, are not necessary.
In the decades prior, Co-Masons largely preferred to operate under the radar of the Malecraft. The Malecraft were to be acknowledged and respected but close relations were ill advised. The Malecraft, after all, had a habit of throwing persecutions.
I’ll refrain from reciting the usual litany of that very unmasonic behavior in any great detail and just say that co-masons generally felt the Malecraft were, for good reason, best avoided.
Goaziou, who had been arrested in 1908 in Pennsylvania for being a Co-Mason and personally faced other Malecraft persecution,3 certainly agreed with that preference. However, as the years wore on and co-masonry grew, Goaziou seems to have developed a vision of how things could be if the various branches of Freemasonry could just get along.
There was, after all, much to be gained. In addition to harmony and that “certain delicacy of feeling,” a standing down of unpleasantness would be good for Co-Masonry. The Order would be allowed to grow without hiding its light under a bushel and, perhaps, the Malecraft would be willing to assist in that by opening their premises for Co-Masons to rent.
If better relations were possible, Goaziou decided there was too much to be gained for him to not at least try.
In the early 1920s, Bro. Goaziou took the first modest steps, mostly just a bit of outreach. When Goaziou traveled to Co-Masonic Lodges, he worked in visits to Malecraft Lodges.
Those Malecraft lodges, which Goaziou and other Co-Masons habitually referred to as “Lodges of F and AM,” were more than ready to receive him. Within a few years, he was speaking with Malecraft brothers who had “Grand” in their Masonic titles, and he developed a wide-ranging correspondence with many of the world’s leading Malecraft scholars of the day.
Soon Bro. Goaziou was receiving invitations to speak in open lodge, or at least with the lodge at refreshment, and the talks he gave were very well received. For example, he gave a talk on March 2, 1926 during a meeting of Rockridge Masonic Lodge No. 468, F and AM4 in Oakland, California on the topic of “Women in Masonry.” A local newspaper reporter was present, and Goaziou himself later reported to Co-masons in the Order that he was strongly encouraged by this particular lodge visit.
“There is hope for the future when it becomes possible for your Grand Commander to speak on ‘Women in Masonry’ before Lodges of F and AM.”5
During that stop in Oakland, Bro. Goaziou also visited five other Malecraft Lodges and had to turn down invitations to visit others for lack of time.
I could go on quite a while about events and developments in this largely successful effort to heal divisions between Co-Masonry and Malecraft Masonry in California, as well as the rest of the country. Things were looking very promising, much as they are in California now, but . . .
The bottom line was this: it went very badly. So badly, that it hasn’t been tried again until very recently.
I could go into great detail about how badly it went but this is a blog, not a book.6 Very long story short, a few Malecraft Masons of the bottom-feeding sort, who didn’t think much of Goaziou’s efforts or of healing divisions in Freemasonry, began to agitate for legal action against Co-Masons in North America.
The supposed basis for that legal action was never very clear but the overall subject seems to have been, “Get’em.”
In the early spring of 1929, articles slandering Co-Masonry began to appear in third-rate Masonic publications, largely written by the same few authors who acted very like trolls on the Internet today. The articles continued well into the summer and began to be picked up by more mainstream publications – Masonic and otherwise. Imagine the attention it would attract if the New York Times republished something first published in InfoWars.
By that autumn, an effort was underway to pressure the Grand Lodge of California “to take legal action against the Co-Masonic Lodges,” Goaziou warned in his October Circular.
There was as much to lose as there had been to gain. The math was simple enough. If the Grand Lodge of California took legal action against Co-Masonry, other Malecraft Grand Lodges were likely to follow. Legally, Co-Masonry was on very strong ground and probably could/would win any such litigation. Practically, however, Co-Masonry did not then have the resources to fight such a battle and probably would go under if it had to.
For months, Co-Masons held their breath, but Goaziou ultimately received word through back channels that the Grand Lodge of California had decided no such legal action would be taken. Co-Masonry in North America had missed a bullet.
Bro. Goaziou also continued to receive invitations to speak in Malecraft Lodges, and his many friends in Malecraft Masonry encouraged him to continue his efforts at healing the divisions.
However, Goaziou and other Co-Masons had suffered a terrible scare and collectively returned to the prior preference of avoiding Malecraft Freemasonry. Goaziou himself announced that he had been wrong to make the effort and that, “to avoid a recurrence of a similar incident,” he would refrain from those efforts.
It was over.
Now, here we are, about 90 years later. It’s 2019 and things are, again, looking promising in California.
A Masonic Philosophical Society meeting in San Diego, California, attended by California Co-Masons [Photo by Maria Isabel Sattui]
Today, not only does Universal Co-Masonry have its greatest presence – outside of headquarters in Colorado – in California, Femalecraft Freemasonry is very much on the rise in the state. Recently, Lodge Aletheia, active in Los Angeles under charter from the Women’s Grand Lodge of Belgium and which traces its history to the 1980s, gave a symposium and had no qualms about advertising it. They weren’t afraid at all.
It is now masonically safer to openly be a Co- or Femalecraft Mason in California. The May/June California Freemason seems to be further encouraging a certain giddy lack of circumspection.
I’ve also heard that the May/June issue of California Freemason itself has prompted significant conversations within the Grand Lodge of California, and that some of the discussions are about how to better show respect and appreciation for the many different threads of Masonry, without violating anyone’s obligations.
Which really isn’t all that difficult. Seriously, it really isn’t. It’s just not something that would have happened even five years ago.
And yet all this – and more – is happening out in the open without the Grand Lodge of California having a snit about it. No threats of lawsuits, getting the state’s General Assembly to move against Co- and Femalecraft Masonry, accosting non-Malecraft Freemasons on the street, breaking into their premises or any other bits of ugliness that could have been expected not very long ago.
Like everyone else, I want to feel very encouraged about that. In a way, I suppose I am feeling encouraged. I’m just feeling it in a very cautious sort of way.
Because that unpleasant history did happen and forgetting history usually tempts a repeat cycle. Still, I suppose the détente in California – if that’s what’s happening – is a good thing.
Y’all carry on, though I hope you will be cautious. I’ll just wait here in the periphery and see how it goes.
______________________________________ 1 See page 27 of the WBro the Rev F. De P. Castells’ “Origin of the Masonic Degrees” (A Lewis, London, 1928). 2 Formerly know as the Honorable Order of American Co-Masonry, American Federation of Human Rights. 3 Yup, it was illegal to be a Co-Mason in Pennsylvania in 1908. If you want to know more about that persecution, as well as the historical points I’m trying to make in this blog, read this. 4Merged to help form Oakland Durant Rockridge Lodge #188, F & AM in 1983. 5 Goaziou’s Circular 74 issued May 1, 1926. 6 Seriously, if you want to know, read this.
Brother Nellie McCool 33°, an aviator in her youth during World War II, flew again late this past spring and just might do it again next year.
“It was great,” Bro. Nellie told me last time I saw her. “It was a lot of fun. I’m happy I got to do it.”
Bro. Nellie, 97, went up in the cockpit of a Boeing Stearman, the same sort used to train aviators during the 1930s and 40s, on June 19, thanks to Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation.
The Carson City, Nevada-based non-profit, staffed largely by volunteers and dependent on donations to continue their mission, dedicated to seniors and U.S. Military veterans, which made it possible for Bro. Nellie and the other former aviators in her group to make the flight.
As of the date of this blog, 4005 “dream flights” have flown via the foundation.
Bro. Nellie McCool as an aviator trainee during World War II
After the war, the WASPs were disbanded and McCool went on to earn her Ph.D. in Psychology from Colorado College and worked at several Colorado schools, including North Junior High, South Security School, and Harrison Senior High School. In the 1960s, at the height of the Cold War, McCool worked in intelligence at NORAD’s Cheyenne Mountain Complex. Later, she served 12 years in the guidance, counseling, job development and placement section of the state’s Board of Community Colleges and Occupational Education and she was director of the ABC for Self-Help Inc. counseling service.
Bro. Nellie also is a brother of the 33° and a member of the Supreme Council of the Honorable Order of Universal Co-Masonry, headquartered in Larkspur, Colorado, only a few miles from her home in Castle Rock.
She didn’t hesitate when the chance to fly again was offered by Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation.
“Today, many of our former United States military pilots live in senior communities,” the foundation says on its website. “We want to take them back to a place in time when they were invincible, ruling the sky as proud military aviators.
As of the date of this blog, 4005 “dream flights” have flown, thanks to the foundation.
As she did decades ago, Bro. Nellie climbed onto the wing of the Boeing Stearman to get to the cockpit for the flight over and around the Colorado Springs area, which included Garden of the Gods and Prospect Lake.
“When you’re up there, looking down, everything is in miniature,” Bro. Nellie said. “All your problems seem very small.”
Edith Dircksey Brown Cowan was an Australian politician, social reformer, women’s and children’s rights advocate and much, much more.
She also was a Co-Freemason.
Nope, I’m not making that up. If I was making it up, I’d certainly think up a better last name. For the nonMasons reading this, a “cowan” is someone who pretends to be a Freemason but who really isn’t.
Bro. Edith was no cowan.
I wish my little blog could do her justice, she really deserves a far more exhaustive biography than I can provide here. I’m not even going to pretend to offer an exhaustive listing of Edith’s achievements. I’m not convinced such a list exists.
She was born Edith Dircksey Brown on 2 August 1861 to Kenneth and Mary Eliza Dircksey Brown on the sheep station Glengarry, near Geraldton in Western Australia. Her mother died in 1868, and Edith was sent to a boarding school in Perth.
On June 10, 1876, when Edith was less than a month shy of her 15th birthday, her father was hanged for murdering his second wife. She left the boarding school and moved in with her grandmother in Guildford, Western Australia. She continued her schooling until, on 12 November 1879 when she was 18, Edith married James Cowan, then registrar and master of the Supreme Court.
About a decade later, her husband was appointed Perth police magistrate. The couple had five children, four daughters and a son, between 1880 and 1891.
Most of her biographers comment that her husband’s career helped open her eyes to wider societal problems, particularly the problems of women and children and the great need for social reform. No doubt it did.
However, it also should be noted that Edith cleared some interesting hurdles that would have – as it, too often, still does – acted like a lead weight on her personal evolution.
Her father’s inglorious end would have been bad enough but marriage and motherhood, what in my time has been referred to as the “mommy track,” relegated a good many late 19th and early 20th century women to obscurity. Not that there’s a single thing wrong with being a good mother, but it was difficult to combine that with public service at the time.
Edith’s life was anything but obscure but there was a pause.
In 1891, the year her last child was born, Edith began work in the Ministering Children’s League. Two years later, she became active the House of Mercy for unmarried mothers, what later became the Alexandra Home for Women.
Those experiences led to her helping to found and becoming first secretary, later president, of the Karrakatta Clubfor women in 1894, which today is he oldest club for women in Australia.
“Club” doesn’t really live up to what the group actually is because it isn’t all about tea and cake (don’t get me wrong, I love tea and cake). The Karrakatta Club provided – and provides – a forum for discussion and networking about various topics, including women’s rights, current affairs and literature. In that way, the club more resembles the 18th Century salons of France, from which adoptive Masonry ultimately sprang.
I’m not saying Edith Cowan was an adoptive Mason (though I’m sure someone out there will say I did).
I am saying she was on a parallel path that has lead many women into prominence and Freemasonry. The networking within the Karrakatta Club would prove to be a spring board for Edith as she and other members were prominent in the women’s suffrage movement.
Karrakatta Club members, quite notably Edith Cowan, were among the strongest supporters of women’s suffrage in Western Australia, which happened in 1899.
In 1906, Edith became a founding member of the Children’s Protection Society in 1906 and it was through this group that Edith help establish, in 1909, a day nursery for the children of working class mothers children. The society was also was instrumental in passage of the State Children Act of 1907, which set up the Children’s Court, to which she was appointed as a judge in 1915.
Meanwhile, in 1909, Edith co-founded of the Women’s Service Guild, of which she was vice-president from 1909 to 1917. The Guild worked for equal rights of citizenship for both men and women and was instrumental in opening the King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women in 1916.
Oh, and in 1916, Edith was made a Freemason.
Edith was initiated 14 October 1916 and she was a founding member of St. Cuthbert’s Lodge No. 408, which was founded in Perth the same year. So I suppose she might have been a founding Entered Apprentice in that lodge or she was made a Master in a hurry. The latter isn’t impossible as such things happened in the early days of worldwide Co-Freemasonry. That certainly isn’t how it’s done in the order to which I belong today but I’m pointing it out because for all I do know about her – or think I do – there’s still a lot I don’t know.
I do know that St. Cuthbert’s wasn’t the first Co-Masonic Lodge in Australia. That started with Victorian Lodge No. 403 in 1911 and Sydney Lodge No. 404 in 1912. Co-Freemasonry remains active, if a bit obscure, in Australia today.
Moving through the blue lodge degrees did not slow Edith down. The same year she was initiated, there was a World War on and edit was in the midst of her four years working with the Red Cross, for which she later was appointed as a member of the Order of the British Empire.
In 1921, when she was 59, Edith became the first woman elected as a representative in an Australian Parliament, as a Nationalist member for West Perth, a year after Western Australia passed legislation that allowed women to run for parliament.
In 1925, she was a delegate to the Sixth International Conference of Women in Washington.
In 1926, she helped found the Western Australian Historical Society.
Cowan died 9 June 1932, survived by her husband. Her funeral took place in the same cathedral in which she’d been married and she is buried in Karrakatta Cemetery in Karrakatta, Nedlands City in Western Australia.
Four years after she died, her mother Lodge built its own premises, becoming the first purpose built Co-Masonic Temple in Australia.
A stone clock tower, the Edith Dircksey Cowan Memorial, stands in her honor at the gates of Kings Park in Perth.
It seems, however, that some brethren in lodges under the United Grand Lodge of England aren’t so sure. These whispering brothers have spent the better part of six months worried that maybe – just maybe – they’ll soon have to endure the presence of Brothers who were initiated believing but later decided there is no god.
And, to hear these brothers – not me – tell it, if this “problem” isn’t resolved it will lead to the UGLE becoming just like those so-called “godless,” “atheistic” Masonic orders in France.
For folks who have no idea what I’m talking about, the UGLE is one of many Masonic orders upon the planet that require candidates for admission believe in a Supreme Being or Power. A new UGLE policy about gender reassignment issued last summer, in addition to selective reading of official statements issued since, has some brethren in the UGLE convinced that this is the atheists’ backdoor into their Lodges. Which, apparently, 1) atheists are eager to find and 2) is a bad thing.
The scuttlebutt began when the UGLE announced its “gender reassignment policy” this past August to line up with the U.K.’s Gender Recognition Act and the Equality Act. The policy says that a Brother who is initiated into a UGLE lodge as a man and who later undergoes gender reassignment and identifies as a woman is allowed to remain.
“A Freemason who after initiation ceases to be a man does not cease to be a Freemason,” the UGLE’s announcement in the Aug. 1 edition of its magazine, Freemasonry Today, rather poetically said.
What started as a whisper campaign between Brothers and in online chat ultimately surfaced in a letter to the editor in this past September edition of The Square, written by “A thoughtful Brother ‘M Mason'” (Seriously? Didn’t we get over pseudonymous letters to the editor in the 19th Century?). The letter pointed up the “larger problem” of “the decline in the belief in God” and that the gender reassignment policy suggests “those who change their minds after becoming a member but no longer believe should be quite safe.”
“Simply apply the rules for gender reassigned men and then the belief-reassigned brothers can all ‘come out’ as being no believers and without a VSL and happily be members,” the anonymous letter said. “If an Obligation is required then they can simply affirm in front of all present. For UGLE to do otherwise to those who are belief-reassigned masons would seem to me also to be discrimination.”
It seems having “belief-reassigned” Brothers around is an issue for this “thoughtful Brother.”
The UGLE decided it was necessary to respond to this pseudonymous letter, which UGLE Grand Secretary David Staples did in his own letter to the editor in the December edition of The Square. Staples wrote that the UGLE got legal advice for “this difficult area regarding gender reassignment,” that lay members weren’t consulted “because complying with the law is mandatory” but that “we fully support the right of Masons to hold diverse views, provided that they ensure their actions are courteous and lawful.”
Staples didn’t directly mention the fears of “thoughtful Brother,” and others like him, about an alleged bloom of belief-reassigned members in their lodges but what he did say about complying with the law being “mandatory” alarmed more than a few.
The same month that Staples’ letter was published in The Square, Freemasonry Today published a Q&A by UGLE Head of Legal Services Donald Taylor about the order’s gender reassignment policy. Taylor, like Staples, didn’t address the question about belief reassignment – neither seemed at all eager to dignify that topic – but Taylor did include this little chestnut:
“The law in this area is liable to change, and policy and guidance may be amended from time to time. “
Which Taylor clearly intended to be in reference to gender reassignment but the whispering Brothers latched onto it and re-purposed it as a reference to a UGLE belief-reassignment policy that they feel must be in the works. The bottom line of these assumptions appears to be that having a belief-reassigned Brother in Lodge is worse than having a female Brother in lodge.
Just for full disclosure, the order to which I belong requires applicants evince belief in a Supreme Power before they are admitted. I asked, there’s no policy about what happens if/when ever a Brother stops believing in a Supreme Power, though there probably would be an informal conversation. Rules are not made until they are broken and, anyway, my observation is that Brothers who belief-reassign (the editors love it when I invent verbs) either keep quiet about it or as quietly leave. It’s a situation that seems to take care of itself, it is not actually a problem.
Unless it is made to be.
If you haven’t noticed by now, I don’t feel this is a real issue. I tend to equate belief-reassignment in Freemasonry, even in the “dogmatic” orders that require belief in a Supreme Being or Power, to suddenly losing an arm or leg. Many orders – though not all – won’t accept an applicant in a wheelchair, otherwise crippled or even just missing a finger joint because that applicant would not be up to the rigors of the ritual.
However, I have personal experience with what happens when a Brother admitted hale and strong at their initiation becomes less so sometime after. I’m not so nimble as I was when I was entered more than a decade ago but I know that I won’t be kicked out, even if I become even more infirm, just because I’m less up to the rigors of the ritual. It’s how I was admitted that matters, not what tricks life plays me.
I think Belief-reassignment could be treated the same way, that a Brother initiated believing in a Supreme Being or Power but who later comes to believe otherwise could be allowed to remain. So why is this an issue? Really?
That answer – the real one – is a subliminal thing that has nothing to do with words the whispering brethren actually utter. As one Brother recently and succinctly put it in one online forum:
“For all those Brothers in the throes of this debate, I really wish you would stop pretending this is about faith and protecting – or not – the requirement of belief in a supreme being or power. Because it isn’t about that at all.”
What it’s really about is Republican – classically defined, not the party-type thing in the U.S. – politics and how to keep it quarantined in places that have no monarch; specifically across the channel in France.
And even that isn’t what people think it is. In my next blog, I’ll try to provide some historical context for what this debate really is about.
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. 🙂