Featured

Why Masonic Scholars maintain the ‘fighting spirit’ to do that thing they do

By Karen Kidd, PM
(I speak only for me)

Joseph E. Morcombe From Find A Grave From Unknown PublicationWelcome to Part II of blogs about Masonic Scholars and why they do what they do.

In March 1918, Grand Lodge of Iowa Grand Historian Joseph E. Morcombe penned a letter to North American Universal Co-Freemasonry Grand Commander Louis Goaziou about a Brother who had expressed some “facts” to him about Masonic history. “Facts” that were verifiably wrong but to which the other Brother was weirdly attached.

“Yet such as he are the leaders and light-givers of the brethren,” Morcombe wrote. “They will not dig for facts, taking their own intuitions or the mere say-so of others as ignorant as themselves as gospel, against all arguments that can be brought.”

In the same letter, Morcombe also doubted why he bothered to labor as a Masonic historian, surrounded as he was by so many “ignorant” brethren.

“When will American Masons be open-minded and logical; when will they search for the light of truth without stipulating ahead or on the way that they will not venture into certain fields? Sometimes I am disgusted enough with hypocrites and ignorances in the Craft to cease my endeavors. But then comes the new ascension of the fighting spirit, and I try to hit all the harder.”

In my observation, that “fighting spirit,” rather than any attention payed by rank-and-file Freemasons or what very little support or rewards the labor attracts, is what drives the majority of modern scholars in the Craft. Each one must figure out for themselves why they do that thing they do. They must define for themselves how to measure their “success” – or lack thereof – and develop strategies to attain that success.

Masonic scholars who ponder that today are largely building on the work of scholars who came before and who, in their own time, had to do their own pondering.

Albert_Pike_portrait
Painting of Albert Pike, which hangs in the museum of the Scottish Rite Consistory in Des Moines, Iowa (commons.wikimedia.org)
 – James Steakley

I suppose the best place to start is with the fellow who, in my most humble opinion, was the greatest scholar of all time, Albert Pike1

Pike’s mortal remains lie where he died, in the House of the Temple of the Scottish Rite’s Southern Jurisdiction in Washington D.C. Pike was a financial failure at almost everything else he tried but he excelled in Ritual development and Masonic research.

Pike also wrote many books, including his “Book of Words” and “Meaning of Masonry2 but is best known for one of his earliest works, “Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite,” which for decades well into the 20th Century was presented to newly raised Malecraft Masons. Millions of copies sit mostly unread on shelves throughout the world.

No one has more books of Masonic research in print than Albert Pike but how he can be considered a success and what his strategies were is still up for debate. “Success” and “strategy” for the Masonic scholar aren’t defined the same way as it would be in other scholarly fields. For the Masonic scholar, success often is all about getting the work done before dying; and strategy – assuming there one – is figuring out how to achieve the first objective.

Many don’t realize that Pike died on the job, in the House of the Temple, because he could not afford to retire. He depended almost entirely upon the patronage and financial support of the Southern Jurisdiction. Though it was for him very much a labor of love, he also clearly had no choice but to so continue until he died. And he did.

Which brings up a very important observation about achieving success in Masonic research: it won’t make you rich. It will not, in fact, bring you much – if any – financial reward at all, despite the great sacrifice it requires. If you really want to be a “success”, then you’re going to have to find a way to finance it.

Which means, of course – and you know what’s coming – don’t quit your day job.

I know of few Masonic Researchers who actually live by their research or their pen; I know of none who make it entirely on royalties. Those who do manage to devote themselves to full time research are those who enjoy financial backing of some sort. For the majority, being a Masonic researcher means working by day, toiling over their latest project during breaks and stolen moments at work, at night, on weekends and any other time away from their private avocation.

Their loved ones think they’re crazy which, in my opinion, experience and observation, is true. Without the support of family and friends, the Masonic researcher can have no hope of “success”, by any definition.

William_Preston_1812
William Preston, 18th and 19th Century Masonry researcher and ritualist. Image from the 1812 edition of “Illustrations of Masonry”

There have, of course, been Masonic researchers who were wealthy and financed their studies. These include William Preston, the 18th and 19th Century Masonic Lecturer whose name today makes up the first half the Ritual referred to as the “Preston-Webb,” worked in most US Malecraft Lodges today. He achieved success and he had a strategy to do it.

However, Preston and others like him are in the extreme minority of Masonic Scholars. Most relied/rely on the support of others and their own incomes to continue their research.

Jeremy Ladd Cross, the great Ritual developer of the early 19th Century whose “True Masonic Chart” remains a standard, was a hatter by profession. Thomas Smith Webb, the second half of “Preston-Webb”, was a book seller and manufacturer of wall paper. Carl Claudy, the 20th Century author of Masonic history, esoterica and fiction, was a journalist and freelance writer. Albert Mackey, an early compiler and writer of Masonic history, was a high-priced physician.

Margaret Jacobs From UCLA Dot EDU website
Margaret Jacob, professor emeritus at UCLA and author of “Origins of Freemasonry: Facts and Fiction.” –
history.ucla.edu/faculty/margaret-jacob-2

Even scholars of Masonry who are not themselves Freemasons do not live by their books alone. Margaret Jacob, whose work includes “Origins of Freemasonry: Facts and Fiction,” is a highly successful academic who teaches at UCLA. David Stevenson, who has written a great deal about the Craft, including his own “Origins of Freemasonry,” is Emeritus Professor of Scottish History at the University of St Andrews. Jessica Harland-Jacobs, author of “Builders of Empire: Freemasons and British Imperialism, 1717-1927,” is associate professor of history at the University of Florida.

Masonic scholars fortunate enough to be published may receive royalties but they are likely to spend far, far, faaaaaaaar more on research. Their tax preparers, like mine, classify what they do as a “hobby,” that it cannot be claimed – by any stretch – as a living. So far as the IRS is concerned, research does not define who the Masonic scholar is, much as the scholar may beg to differ.

So, all that said, the paramount strategy toward achieving success in Masonic Research, especially as a nonacademic, is to – somehow – find a way to finance it. For most Masonic scholars, that strategy involves “patronage” of some kind.

Patronage, in my experience, is a resource – any resource – that someone else parts with to advance a scholar’s endeavors. There are few Masonic researchers who rely on only one patron. Most, me included, have many patrons.

The greatest form of patronage in Masonic research is other researchers in the field; those willing to mentor, share discoveries and collaborate in the work. Many is the time I’ve been stymied in my research and another scholar – often a scholar who is not a Freemason – has provided me the one piece I couldn’t find on my own.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Australia and New Zealand Masonic Research Council Past President Neil Wynes Morse

My greatest mentor, who watches over me from thousands of miles away, whom I seldom meet but who has provided so much in the way of time, material and faith, is Neil Wynes Morse. Morse is one of the world’s leading experts in Masonic ritual development, past president of the Australia and New Zealand Masonic Research Council (ANZMRC) and is known to many in Freemasonry as “the Canberra Curmudgeon”. He mentors many but I like to think I’m his favorite 😀

Of course, all the information in the world won’t get past your keyboard if you can’t keep a roof over your head or pay shipping and handling costs to some otherwise unappreciated librarian six states away for an obscure document s/he just photocopied for you. Sad to say, success in this field often comes down to cold, hard cash and where to get it.

I’ve heard that grants and awards to finance research exist but I’ve never secured one of these. Within Freemasonry, this kind of patronage is usually reserved for malecraft researchers or those scholars of Freemasonry who don’t write anything the malecraft don’t want written. If you are a Freemason in an Obedience not in amity with the 50 largest malecraft grand lodges in the US, and especially if you are a female Freemason, the usual sources of Masonic patronage simply are not available to you.

However, patronage takes many other forms. For me, patronage is a couch to sleep on while I’m in town visiting a local library.

It is a meal, a drink, bus fare or a seat in a car during a research road trip, room and board.

It’s someone willing to visit a dusty old archive on my behalf to look up something they can physically get to but that they may not, themselves, understand.

It’s air miles or some other way to shorten the physical distance between me and some small, cryptic bit of truth I’m after.

It’s not wondering aloud just how insane I might be.

And all I, and any other scholar, can ever do, by way of recompense, is say, “Thank you.”

All of that is patronage.

Patronage also is a kind, listening ear, sympathetic smiles and a great deal of love, attention, encouragement and patience. I want to place especial emphasis on the latter, patience. For as I mentioned earlier, all of us in Masonic research and publishing are crazy. Those who love, encourage and enable us in this madness are so very important for any success – however it is defined – that we may ever have in this field.

Another hurdle for the Masonic scholar is time. I’m not the best manager of that very precious commodity. When I’m in the throes of a project, I can’t sleep for long periods. Any spare moment is suborned to study. I plague my local library with impossible inter-library loan requests that they always manage to pull off.

I become very manic and intense when I catch the scent of something that has long eluded me. In these periods, I can be very hard to be around and quite difficult to get along with. I advise anyone considering or already laboring in the field of Masonic scholarship to do as I say, not as I do: manage well your time.

I also recommend something I like to think I’m a little better at: maintaining a strong back bone and unbreakable integrity – though others call it “stubbornness” and “being unreasonable.” Being the scholar in the room often means being the designated grown up. A good scholar, in any field, is insufferably objective and unable to toe any party line.

This attracts hostility from all sides.

Rudyard Kipling
Rudyard Kipling

Folks with agendas to push and axes to grind will seek you out and, trust me, they will find you. When they do, you’ll have to keep your mind focused on the truth and stick to it, even when it would be easier to give in to those for whom the truth takes distant second to internal politics or some other goal.

I recommend memorizing the poem “If” by the Freemason Rudyard Kipling; and, if you are a Freemason, paying extra close attention to your lessons in the Third; and if you’re York Rite, the Mark.

The greatest hurdle for a Masonic scholar is to figure out why they do that thing they do. The “why” is something each scholar must answer for themselves and while that answer may not always be the same for one scholar, compared to another, I think I have come upon a general reason “why” we do what we do.

Of course, the Masonic scholar can go a long time without answering that question but cannot count themselves a master until s/he does.

“Why are you doing this?”

“Because you are the only one who can.”
__________________________________

Yeah, I know there are folks who will want to debate that point with me. Take a number and, for now and for the sake of this blog, just go with it.

 2 You young whipper snappers should appreciate these links. I can remember when it was almost impossible to lay hands on even a hard copy of Pike’s lesser circulated work. Seriously, up hill both ways!

Featured

Conferences remind Masonic researchers they are not alone – though they often are

FromNeilBy Karen Kidd, PM
(I speak only for me)

I don’t know even half of you, but none of you will ever be so cool as the above photo.

On the far left is John Wade, classical linguist and noted historian, Masonic and otherwise, past master of the Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076 and, since 2009, editors of QC’s Transactions (the AQC) since 2009. He also is a Prestonian Lecturer and can belt out “The Apprentice Song” like no one else.

To his left is S. Brent Morris, retired government cryptologic mathematician and soon-to-retire managing editor of The Scottish Rite Journal, published by the Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite Southern Jurisdiction. He has written extensively about Freemasonry, with not the least of his work being the “Complete Idiot’s Guide to Freemasonry.”

To Morris’ left is Mike Kearsley, editor of the Square, a UK-based independent magazine for Freemasons. Kearsley is a Prestonian lecturer and a recipient of Quatuor Coronati Lodge’s Norman Spencer Prize. He currently serves as the research lodge’s Secretary and is this year’s touring Kellerman lecturer.

Across the table is David Slater, past preceptor of Canberra Lodge of Research & Instruction, now Linford Lodge of Research where he is currently is Treasurer, Senior Warden at Discovery Lodge of Research, was the 2004 Kellerman lecturer and 2018 Norman B. Spencer Prize essayist.

The photo was taken at the Shakespeare’s Head in London this past spring by Neil Wynes Morse, one of the world’s leading experts in Masonic ritual development and past president of the Australia and New Zealand Masonic Research Council (ANZMRC).

These five, only a handful of the world’s researchers of Freemasonry, were in London for conferences on both sides of the English Channel and they took the opportunity for a meal, drinks and lots and lots of catching up. That is, in my opinion, the one primary value of Masonic research conferences: to remind researchers into the history and ritual of Freemasonry that they are not alone; not really.

Of course, most researchers, especially those in academia, will say that research conferences also are valuable because, among other things, they provide opportunities to present papers, receive critiques and find out what other researchers in the field are working on. All that is true but I haven’t met a Masonic researcher yet who didn’t feel they worked entirely too much on their own and those other benefits really boil down to the one primary value.

As a Masonic researcher, I know what it is to feel isolated in my work. The vast majority of Masonic researchers labor away to discover and preserve the history of the Craft and its ritual, all the while feeling overwhelmingly outnumbered by those who write about philosophy of the Craft and its esoterica. That crowd has a certain disregard for accuracy in history that I work very hard to be OK with but, quite frankly, it often causes issues for me when I’m trying to be taken seriously by historians and other researchers who are not Freemasons.

I’ve had to explain, entirely too often, that folks like Robert Lomas and Christopher Knight are not part of the much smaller herd with which I run and to beg acceptance as a more serious researcher with greater appreciation for the truth. Trust me, I have that.

That said, Masonic scholars of history and ritual have an equally well-earned reputation of running fast and loose with the truth that we also are still living down. In a not-so-very-long-ago time, myth and legend were preferred to cold, verifiable facts. Some wicked – and largely fabricated – stuff was churned out in the 19th and well into the 20th centuries and passed off as history. Sometimes, even today, those fairy tales still are quoted as truth.

It is little wonder that Freemasonry, until the last few decades, too often was what well-noted British Historian Frances Yates called “the happy-hunting ground of wildly imaginative and uncritical writers.”Yates added her voice to calls for a far, far, faaaaar more scientific approach to research into the history and Ritual of Freemasonry and she quoted a couple of Masonic researchers who are little known today but were giants in the field, in their time and now.

“It is time they should be investigated with proper historical and critical methods and there are signs that that time is approaching. In the preface to a book on the genesis of Freemasonry it is stated that the history of masonry ought not to be regarded as something apart but as a branch of social history, a study of a particular institution and the ideas underlying it ‘to be investigated and written in exactly the same way as the history of other institutions’.”

The preface to which Yates referred was in Douglas Knoop and G.P. Jones‘ seminal work in Masonic History, “The Genesis of Freemasonry,” published by Manchester University Press in 1947. The works by Knoop and Jones and other scholars like them remain required reading by those actually interested – and my observation is that most rank and file brothers aren’t at all interested – in genuine research into Freemasonry history and Ritual.

Knoop, Jones and others like them aren’t well known outside of research circles but they helped establish serious, science-based research into Freemasonry as a norm. They also firmly established Masonic research as a solitary and isolated labor, as I find it to be today.

Which confirms, in my opinion, the one primary value in Masonic conferences about history and scholarship – a chance for scholars who often work in isolation to meet up, network and remind each other that they are not really alone.

One better known conference is the prestigious World Conference on Fraternalism, Social Capital and Civil Society, aka the “WCF,” in France in odd numbered years and Washington in even numbered years. The conference is sponsored by the American Public University System, American Military University, American Public University, Phi Sigma Omega International, Westphalia Press, Musée de la Franc-Maçonnerie in Paris, and the University of Houston.

Cropped
Paul Rich, co-chair of the World Conference on Fraternalism, Freemasonry, and History (WCF) and George Mason University President Paul Rich and Susan Mitchell Sommers, a history professor at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, who has presented papers at the WCF  and other conferences. Sommers latest book about Freemasonry history, “The Siblys of London,” was published by Oxford University Press last year. – Photo by Olimpia Sandoval

WCF chairs are Hoover Institution visiting fellow and George Mason University History Professor Paul Rich, French historian and Grand Orient de France Library Director Pierre Mollier and University of Houston Associate Professor Guillermo de los Reyes.

This year’s WCF featured 40 lectures and 20 panels from the world’s best Masonic scholars. The topic of next year’s conference, scheduled June 5 at the Historic Quaker Meetinghouse, is expected to be “Fraternal Art and Music,” while the 2121 WCF, scheduled May 27-29 that year at the The Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, is expected to be about “Are the Ancient Landmarks Ancient?”

While the WCF certainly isn’t the only Masonic research conference (there also is the ICOM, also in France, which operates under the auspices of Louis Trabuchet), it is one of the best in that it offers presenters not only networking and gathering opportunities. The WCF also publishes papers presented during the conference, which in turn provides greater exposure for those papers beyond a room full of attendees.

Which often is about all the attention a Masonic scholar’s work will receive. The wider world seems little interested – unless aliens, conspiracy, world domination and other “sexy” stuff is written into the text. Rank-and-file Freemasons, who are strongly encouraged to “make a daily progress in masonry,” often treat research and history as little better than an amusing distraction.

ICOM photo by Olafur Magnusson
Books on offer during the 2017 ICOM – Photo by Olafur Magnusson

So if scientific-based research into Masonic history and Ritual is a lonely labor with little reward beyond fleeting opportunities to meet up and network, why do Masonic researchers do this work?

That will be the topic of part II of this blog.

__________________________________
1. Page 294, “The Art of Memory” (Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1966).

 

Featured

As the Grand Lodge of Scotland Found Out, Social Media and E-Masonry aren’t Going Away

By Karen Kidd, PM
(I speak only for me)

“The more rapid the change, the more substantial must be the response. In light of this, it is perhaps inappropriate for Freemasonry to seek to be immune to E-communication if its essential values are to survive.”

Gerald Reilly and Josh Heller, “The Temple That Never Sleeps” (Cornerstone Book Publishers, 2006)

Back in September, the world – or at least those who paid attention – watched as the Grand Lodge of Scotland briefly rejected social media, in part because the so-called “secrets” were leaking out.

It was an abrupt about face by the grand lodge, which had for years enthusiastically embraced Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms, in addition to its excellent website that provides informative announcements, articles and photos.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I am a huge fan of Robert Cooper, curator of the grand lodge’s library and museum, and editor of its Twitter and Facebook pages, in addition to being a noted Freemasonic historian, scholar and writer.

Cooper had the very awkward task of explaining to the wider world, via the Times in London (the Times online sits behind a pay wall, so I’ll quote with wild abandon), why the grand lodge’s social media pages had been put on hold pending an internal review.

“As with any organization there are internal private discussions that shouldn’t be aired in public,” Cooper was quoted in the Times. “Unfortunately, some of our members are doing that. Naively, they are putting up messages on Facebook saying, ‘What do you think about what the Grand Lodge are proposing?’ Issues being discussed are not public but then, all of sudden, they are in the public domain.”

Members also had been outing other members without consent and “there also have been cases where online disputes between brothers became less than fraternal,” Cooper was quoted in the Times.

The withdrawal didn’t go unnoticed.

“We have got 25,000 people from around the world who read the posts regularly,” Cooper was quoted in the Times. “We have had lots of queries as to why we have stopped.”

Yeah, well, it didn’t last. The Grand Lodge of Scotland quickly re-embraced social media and then tried to put the debacle behind them.

GL of Scotland statement“Brethren, it has been reported that the Grand Lodge of Scotland social media platforms had been shut down,” Grand Lodge of Scotland Grand Secretary J. Euan Edment said in a statement issued two days after the Times article was published. “This was due to a misunderstanding and as soon as it was noticed the situation was rectified. I am delighted to confirm that both our Facebook and Twitter sites are again operating normally and I hope any inconvenience has been minimal.”

The “inconvenience” resulted from only the latest effort by Freemasonic grand lodges and other supreme bodies to grapple with the pros and cons of life in the Internet Age and rise of the “E-Mason.”

Reilly300x400
Gerald Reilly, who with Josh Heller co-authored “The Temple That Never Sleeps,” first published in 2006 (photo courtesy of
Gerald Reilly

The E-Mason, as Gerald Reilly and Josh Heller observed in their book “The Temple That Never Sleeps,” published more than a decade ago, is “a Freemason for whom a part, at least, of their Masonic improvement is provided by membership of a Masonic E-group, or groups, set up for and subscribed to, for that purpose.”

When Reilly and Heller wrote that definition, Facebook was still in its infancy and most E-Masons were active in online Masonic forums (my personal favorite – and, gods how I miss it! – was “The Three Pillars”). In those online forums, Freemasons of all types were free to get to know each other, exchange ideas and generally communicate unfettered on the interwebs.

Those online forums have largely disappeared, replaced by Reddit and other social media platforms, but the unfettered communication continues.

While all of that has been going on, the grand lodges and other supreme bodies have largely viewed the cross-jurisdictional communication between individual Freemasons with no little worry. Those same bodies also have simultaneously tried to figure out how to harness the myriad of opportunities provided by the Internet.

“Technological innovation has radically changed the conduct of our daily lives. We can do things faster, easier and cheaper than ever before. We have information at our fingertips and an ability to communicate with each other, around the globe at the speed of light.” – Reilly and Heller, “The Temple That Never Sleeps”

Freemasonry has always – ALWAYS – been open to technological advances in the larger world and has been more than happy to adapt them to Masonic life and jurisdictional practice. Those advances have allowed members to travel further afield to attend meetings and functions while communication advances helped strengthen bonds between Masonic bodies and created other bonds that previously did not exist.

It isn’t all about being in walking distance and sending letters by courier anymore. Freemasonry has advanced along with the rest of the world.

So, why is the Internet so different?

There’s no simple answer to that question but I’ll try to keep it simple, notwithstanding.

Quite frankly, Freemasonic grand lodges and other supreme bodies have harnessed the Internet for the benefits that can be reaped but, like the Grand Lodge of Scotland, they’re still puzzling out some serious downsides.

First, the pros: The Internet makes it easier for Brothers and Sisters to communicate and communication is the gateway to understanding.

Second, the cons: The Internet makes it easier for Brothers and Sisters to communicate and communication is the gateway to understanding.

Grand lodges and other supreme bodies appreciate the Internet as a vehicle for making their front offices function more smoothly and be accessible. This translates internally into greater vehicles for getting information to their membership and externally into greater visibility for would-be members to find them.

It’s no longer a know-one-to-be-one situation. Those who seek Freemasonry now have a far easier time finding orders most congenial to them.

This development has been of especial importance to co- and femalecraft Freemasonry that in decades past had a very difficult time surviving, thanks in no small part to persistent persecution by the more numerous malecraft. The Internet has leveled the field for all three branches and made persecution far more difficult to carry out unnoticed.

Greater understanding between individual brothers and sisters, made all the more possible by the Internet, also has sharply reduced desire for continued persecution and increased interest in pursuing avenues of mutual interest.

The Internet also, for better or otherwise, gave rise to orders based entirely in the Internet. For me, that’s a bridge too far. An entirely virtual lodge experience would not work for me; I am more of an orthodox, traditional, brick-and-mortar Freemason.

However, I also am a great proponent of choice in Freemasonry. If virtual Masonry is your thing, have at it. The Internet made that possible for you.

More than making Freemasonry easier to find, there also is the not-unappreciated value of the Internet as a means of presenting a good image to the public. Bad things can happen when the public collectively decides that Freemasonry is bad. The Internet makes it easier for Freemasonic bodies to let the larger world know that they’re good people.

Faced with the great need to maintain good public relations, grand lodges and other supreme bodies find it unhelpful when individual members do or advocate unMasonic things or otherwise don’t toe the Masonic line. Those bodies are ever anxious that the world at large understand that their individual members speak only for themselves, not for the order to which they belong.

That distinction often is lost on the wider world.

Which is why the actions of misbehaving members is an even greater problem than before the Internet Age. Such misbehavior is now more easily noticed by the wider world (the William Morgan incident not excluded) and can reflect poorly on the order(s) to which the misbehaving brother(s) belong(s). Good public relations are important to the front office, particularly in areas where Freemasonry is under attack, so errant members are a huge concern.

It likewise is no especial shock that grand lodges and other Masonic supreme bodies don’t appreciate the Internet when it’s used by individual members to counter the various Masonic lines that those bodies promulgate. It also is now much more difficult for those bodies to reel in the errant brother or sister who doesn’t toe the Masonic line; or worse, doesn’t respect that line or doesn’t know that the line exists.

Those bodies also have been wary of the Internet as the medium by which Freemasons of various ilks – including bodies not in amity with each other and between whom there has been disharmony – to meet in a more level way. On the one hand, the Internet is helpful in providing greater opportunities for education and for brothers and sisters to get to know each other.

It also helps break down artificial barriers based on “regularity” and “amity,” which is where the wariness comes in. Regularity and amity are very much front office concerns and individual members might be less than sensitive to those concerns. They might, in fact, disagree and say so online – in the public domain.

However, the issue that seems to attract the most attention, as we saw with the Grand Lodge of Scotland in September, is individual members being too loose with an order’s secrets.

The Internet certainly has made Freemasonry’s so-called “secrets” more available but hasn’t made especially clear – for the Internet is generally a murky, if information dense, place – that the secrets aren’t about being secret. It’s about Freemasons being disciplined enough to not reveal them.

It’s about the individual Freemason, not the secrets.

So far as Freemasonic grand lodges and other Masonic supreme bodies are concerned, it’s one thing for the secrets to be available via more shadowy portions of the Internet; but quite another for their own members to share them on social media.Cropped

All of these issues are only the tip of the iceberg of what the various Masonic bodies are trying to figure out as they sail even further into the Internet Age. Some are maneuvering through those dangerous waters with more grace than others.

As we saw, the Grand Lodge of Scotland briefly tried the draconian approach, which magnificently failed. The failures attract far more attention than do the successes.

If you’ve read this far and are expecting me to suggest what the Grand Lodge of Scotland should have done or to provide an easy solution to all of this, I am going to disappoint you. I have no idea.

I, like everyone else in this Internet Age, am hoping for the very best but am anxious about what may turn out to be the very worst.

I do know that, barring something catastrophic that forces us all to dramatically regress in our collective evolution, the Internet, social media and E-Masonry aren’t going away. Fool that I am, I remain optimistic.

As Reilly and Heller observed more than a decade ago about the Temple that never sleeps:

“E-Masonry may well be met with challenges, obstacles and resistance along the way although we are not aware of any degree of formal resistance or for any proscription of participation. Perhaps it should be regarded as something that is future proof and that it could aid the survival of Freemasonry’s traditional values, although perhaps not in a traditional format.”

The Confectioner’s Wife, Barber’s Daughter, Sisters in Caernarvon and Other Early Women Operative Masons

Stack of books croppedBy Karen Kidd, PM
(I speak only for me)
Sometimes an obvious lie is reason enough for me to find an archive, scratch up the resources to go visit that archive and then spend hours studying the archive to confirm what I already knew: the lie really is a lie.

When your niche history is women Freemasons, as it is mine, there are plenty of lies to be investigated. It seems to be my job in the 21st century, when a lot of history is being rewritten because of lies told in the not-all-that-distant past (thanks, Victorians). It doesn’t pay well but it needs to be done.

Today’s blog is about one lie in particular that is fading away. For generations, so-called scholars and walk-a-day Freemasons on the malecraft side of the Craft too often repeated as fact that women can’t be Freemasons because there were no women among the medieval operative masons, those who built the great cathedrals.

It’s a stupid lie. I could go into many reasons why it’s so stupid but the most glaring reason is that the operative guilds – a number of which remain active (see below) – have never denied the existence of its women members. It’s not a thing for them.

It has been a thing for some Freemasons, even malecraft scholars, who have promulgated this lie. They had their reasons. Ignorance looms large among them but there also was a desire to use this as an excuse – such as it is – to deny the existence of women Freemasons. They did so without buy-in from the operatives.

And the operatives historically, because of this, have not been very happy with Freemasons – including me by association. Not only did we steal their tools (we did) but we’ve also told lies about them; and ignored what efforts they made to correct us (they seem to have largely given up trying to get their tools back). As Freemasons who want to believe this particular lie have shown no especial interest in listening, the eventual attitude of the operatives, in my observation, has been to tell Freemasons “you go do you, leave us alone.”

This has been the state of things for generations as certain Freemasons nourished this peculiar, shared delusion.

That in mind, I recognize that the opportunity I received in the spring of 2017 to review the remaining medieval and enlightenment period membership records of the London Company of Masons, stored in MS 5984 at the Guildhall Library in London, was very special indeed. Getting permission wasn’t easy as I am a Freemason and, so far as the London Company is concerned, I’m somewhat suspect. They did, however, grant me permission.

There were conditions, mostly that I take great care of these documents as they are old and fragile. That meant the usual: white gloves (I brought my own), strings of white beads (the guildhall’s), staying within sight of the eagle-eyed librarians (who kindly pointed me to other documents), be careful where I breath/sneeze/etc., etc.

I also agreed not to publish photos of the records themselves (though I did take lots and lots of photos that I’m allowed to privately share), so the picture above of the bound records is the best I can do for this blog. I’m grateful for that much.

Not that I didn’t already know names of other operative women masons. I did. Just to name a few . . .

– (My personal favorite) “Gunnilda the Mason” of Norwich, mentioned in Calendar of Close Rolls for the year 1256.

– Four woman listed among the laboring, or “rough”, class of Masons in Caernarvon, for whom payments were recorded in about 1337. Rough Masons did the hardest work at the site. These four women Masons were Juliana filia fabri (Juliana, daughter of the smith), Emmota filia fabri (Emmota, daughter of the smith), Elena de Engoland (Elena of England) and Juliana uxor Ade (Juliana, wife of Ade). Juliana and Emmota, based on their contiguous position in the payment list and that bother were daughters of “the smith,” probably were sisters

We also have records of women operative masons whose names are not given. Clauses in the 1389 Certificate of the Guild of Masons at Lincoln refer repeatedly to sisters as well as brothers. Records of the Corpus Christi Guild at York charge apprentices to swear to obey “the Master, or Dame, or any other Freemason.”

I also knew the name of one woman (well, a teenager) operative mason that I expected to see – and did see – in the London Company’s records. She was Mary Banister, daughter of a barber in Barking, Essex, and her existence had been mentioned by a very few Freemasonic scholars who didn’t buy into the lie about her existence (and were generally ignored for their trouble).

I knew Mary Banister was not the daughter of a mason. Her father was a baker and she was not married when she paid 4 pounds 6 shillings to be apprenticed (same as was habitually charged male apprentices at the time) on 12 Feb 1713. That’s about all I knew about her before I saw the records for myself.

I now know her father was George Banister and that Mary Banister was bound to London Company master John Sumner. The London Company records actually contain two documents about Mary Banister’s binding. She is the only apprentice listed for Sumner in the London Company records I examined. That doesn’t mean he didn’t have other apprentices, the record is not completely preserved, but it is notable that no others are listed for him as one would expect.

I’ve never been able to find anything more about Mary Banister outside the London Company’s records, despite the wealth of genealogical information available online and off. Perhaps that will change one day; or I’ll pay a visit to Essex.

On the same page that records Mary Banister’s binding also is the binding of Richard Noals to his mother, Mary Noals, in January of 1714. Mary Noals was the widow of a Mason, as were many of the women listed in the company’s records, but she clearly was skilled enough to take on her son as an apprentice. Mary Noals also had enough cred with the London Company to be included in the “masters and mistresses” column of its rolls.

That said, some of the widows listed in the membership rolls clearly were not themselves Masons and, as such, usually are listed as acting on behalf of their husbands’ estates. However, those nonoperative women are easily differentiated from those, like Mary Noals, who knew how to handle the tools.

Another widow, Anna Barnes, took on her son as an apprentice on 28 Aug. 1713. In June of 1715, she took on another apprentice, John Barton.

Mary Easton is listed on four pages, which provide us with an unusual outline of her life. We first meet her via her husband, Robert Easton, on 19 April 1705 when he took on Clement William, a tailor’s son, as an apprentice. We see her again on 14 June 1727, by which time she is a widow, when she takes on Robert Green, a basket maker’s son, as an apprentice.

On 14 June 1729, by Mary Easton apprenticed Henry Daintry, the son of a London “victualler,” (The person who person who supplies food, beverages and other provisions for the crew of a vessel headed out to sea). On 6 Sept 1734, Mary Easton took on what may have been her last apprentice, Thomas Morris, the son of a deceased mason. Which is brow raising.

Presumably, a mason would not place his/her child as an apprentice with just any mason and Mary Easton wasn’t the only woman mason in the London Company records to take on a mason’s child. Susanna Munton, who lived in Ivory Street Aldgate, apprenticed John Brocket on 9 Nov 1786. Brocket was the son of London Mason William Brocket who, unlike Thomas Morris’ father, still was living.

It seems the younger Brocket could have been apprenticed to his father but he wasn’t. His father must have known Munton, which suggests a strong working relationship. No fee is listed, so maybe Susanna took on this apprentice without a fee. Which could lead to some speculation about how strong her working relationship was with the elder Brocket but the remaining record tells us little else. Maybe, one day, we will know more.

Like Mary Banister, not all apprentices are male. Sisters Catherine and Elizabeth Undershaft, daughters of wood salter George, who had died, were apprenticed five days apart in April 1767 to George Freshwater.

The London Company also records woman masters who took on female apprentices. One of these was Susanna Twiss, daughter of Shrewsbury cloth merchant John Twiss, to Frances, widow of Richard Holt, on 28 March 1751. John Twiss had died before his daughter was apprenticed.

I could drone on a while listing one operative woman mason after another, I found enough women members in the London Company records to fill up several pages, but I’d rather this blog not turn into a list. I’ll mention only a couple more.

In my opinion, the most interesting woman mason listed in the London Company of Masons membership rolls is Mary Latour. Her husband, René, was not a mason. René Latour was a confectioner by trade and “bottle groom” to William III.

I don’t know what a bottle groom did in the time of William III and it does seem to be something of a mystery. Even my inquiry to the Royal Collection Trust has failed to resolve the mystery, though one guess I’ve heard is that this person kept a bottle of wine handy in case the king wanted to imbibe. In any case, the position appears to have been honorary, it seems this was more of an excuse to pay René Latour a stipend to keep him on side, rather than give him an actual job to do.

Not that it didn’t pay well. The remaining record indicates René Latour was paid £54 per year, which was not a small sum at the time, and his office answered to the king’s groom of the horse. René Latour died in 1702.

The London Company’s records don’t record how Mary Latour came to be an operative mason in her own right but she clearly did. On 8 October 1714, in her 12th year as a confectioner’s widow, she took on her son, also René, as an apprentice.

Almost two years later, on 24 September 1716, she took on another apprentice, Henry Rogers, the son of a joiner, itself an indication of how closely stone masons worked with wood carpenters.

That Mary Latour had two apprentices with no evidence of a Mason working in her stead – that she didn’t need another mason working in her own stead – is clear evidence of the obvious: that Mary Latour was an operative mason in her own right. No lie will undo her existence and the truth eventually wins out.

Mary Latour was, however, a member of the London Company at a time when membership was beginning a long, slow decline. The cathedral building period was over and there was no longer so much work available for masons.

The last woman mason I noted in the London Company records was Mary Simpson, widow of John Simpson, who apprenticed Robert Staning on 15 June 1805 and her son, John Simpson, on 9 January 1812. The latter date suggests Mary Simpson’s son was very young when her husband died.

Mary Simpson’s inclusion in the London Company’s records precedes a period when the company dropped the word “Mistresses” from the “Master and Mistresses” column in its record. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when but it documents a very important point in human, as well as masonic and Freemasonic, history. There had been a change in attitude toward women’s work that could be its own paper and women began to find themselves more firmly excluded from various professions.

There’s no reason to suppose that the London Company of Masons restricted its membership based on gender. Instead, it seems that there came a generation in which social conventions arose that caused the number of such women to drop, that human beings in general decided on a stricter division of labor based on sex. The London Company of Masons didn’t cause those social conventions, its records are simply one indication that it happened.

Which points up the real reason behind the lie I was investigating. Women were not excluded from Freemasonry because there had been no operative women masons. They were excluded because social conventions developed in the late 18th and early 19th centuries that were adopted by Freemason en masse and elsewhere in life that created a belligerence toward women in professional and social life.

That is a more difficult and certainly less sexy reason to explain women’s exclusion but it’s true, notwithstanding.

Most of the women on my list are from the English-speaking world and I won’t make any apologies for that. I don’t speak other languages especially well and I really don’t have the skills or resources to scour archives in other languages.

That said, my own Anglo-centric research has turned up early women masons, which suggest women masons existed at the time in other parts of the world. This, of course, requires they be looked for, recognized and no longer ignored but I won’t be doing that any time soon.

That said, I think I’ve done well considering almost all of my sources have been primary (I’m not generally building on the work of other scholars) and it has taken a considerable amount of resources to do what I’ve done. So if you want to go find operative women masons documented in not-English speaking parts of the world, you go do that 🙂

There’s plenty of modern operative masonic history to occupy me as well. In April, fire broke out beneath the roof of Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral in Paris, which was built by medieval stone masons. As mentioned above, I have not gone looking for lists of early stone masons outside the English-speaking world but there’s every reason to believe women were include among the operatives who built Notre-Dame.

With its destruction, stone masons are in demand for its rebuilding. And, of course, this group of highly skilled workers who know how to wield a mallet and chisel includes women. It seems no one is now bothering to deny that truth.

Featured

Resolved: The Shrine – for its own good and that of Freemasonry – should drop its Master Mason membership requirement

By Karen Kidd, PM
(I speak only for me)

There are times that I probably shouldn’t say anything, but I do anyway.

This blog is one of those times.

On Tuesday, July 16, Grand Lodge of Arkansas Grand Master Jesse D. Sexton issued an edict that recognizes Shriners International as a “civic organization,” according to Chris Hodapp’s “Freemasons for Dummiesblog this week. The edict officially ends the troubles between the Grand Lodge and Shriners International that has gone on for more than half a decade.

“The result of this decision permits Arkansas Masons to again be members of Shriners International for the first time since 2013,” Hodapp’s blog says (with the italics being mine).

DISCLAIMER: I’m a Co-Mason. The Order to which I belong doesn’t have any connections to any “Shrine” along the lines of Shriners International and does just fine without it; but I still have an opinion, notwithstanding.

The use of “allow” and “permit” in reference to Freemasons – “free” being, literally, the operative word – always makes me twitch, particularly when it refers to Freemasons in the so-called “free world.” So far as I know, I didn’t give up my free association rights when I was initiated but . . .

Well, somehow, it seems the Grand Lodge of Arkansas has been suspending those rights quite a lot since November 2012, when the male-only Grand Lodge declared the Shrine “clandestine” and forbade Masons in its jurisdiction to become members of the Shrine. The Grand Lodge “expelled numerous Masons” who joined anyway or tried to transfer to other jurisdictions not having a spat with the Shrine, Hodapp’s blog says.

Hodapp described the spat, which he calls “the long-running feud between the Grand Lodge of Arkansas and Shriners International,” in previous editions of the Freemasons for Dummies blog (not to be confused with his wonderful book by the same name). There’s no need for me to give more than a little background here and then move on to explain why it’s giving me fits.

Shriners International describes itself as a “fraternity based on fun, fellowship and the Masonic principles of brotherly love, relief and truth.” It claims almost 200 temples – “chapters” for folks who are spooked by the word “temple” – in thousands of clubs worldwide.

Shriners do have a certain reputation when it comes to the “fun” (I love those fezzes and little cars) and, yes, they are all men. That last bit has more to do with the Shrine’s weirdly unrelated requirement that their members must be Master Masons in good standing in the larger male-only grand lodges in North America. Members of those grand lodges are all men, so it follows that all Shriners are men.

Before anyone arches their back and starts hissing about that, “Shriners’ ladies” [don’t start!] can join independent organizations in which women work toward the same causes as does the Shrine. Those women-only organizations are Daughters of the Nile, The Ladies’ Oriental Shrine of North America, and The Shrine Guilds of America, all of which, like the Shrine, support Shriners Hospitals for Children.

I’m not at all fussed about the gender-centricity of all that because the Shrine is NOT Freemasonry.

What the Shrine is, in fact, is mostly about the good work they do. The Shrine and its auxiliary organizations have for generations supported Shriners Hospitals for Children’s 22 healthcare systems in the United States, Mexico and Canada.

Until June 2012, patients in Shriners Hospitals received care without charge and the healthcare systems still offer free care to children not covered by insurance and will waive out-of-pocket costs not covered by insurance.

The change in 2012 is generally blamed on the drop in the size of the Shrine’s endowment due to stock market losses during the Great Recession and that’s true enough. It just isn’t the entire story.

Decline in Shrine membership has, of course, tracked the decline of membership in the larger traditionally male-only grand lodges in North America, which means fewer members now struggle to raise funds to boost the Shrine’s shrinking endowment. More hands are needed so it’s now surprise that the rise of whispers about dropping the Shrine’s Master Mason membership requirement can be tracked along the same timeline.

After all, dropping that requirement would allow the Shrine to increase its membership numbers and, with the inevitable influx or more members for the great work the Shrine does, the endowment could be better supported.

The counter to that is the terror – and I’m here to tell you, the terror is real – that dropping that membership requirement would effectively destroy male-only Freemasonry in North America, at least in the larger gender-based grand lodges. Those Freemasons who buy into the terror argue that there are a good many men who join Freemasonry on this continent only to get to the Shrine.

That’s a bit bewildering to a Freemason such as me who sees Freemasonry as its own thing, as opposed to a pathway to something else but, well, there it is.

It’s not that I’m unsympathetic to those who buy into the terror, I just think it’s mistaken.

If male-only Freemasonry needs the Shrine to survive, then maybe it should be allowed fail. If the male-only grand lodges require another organization to survive, then those grand lodges are already dead.

But they are not and they will not die even if the Shrine completely withdraws its Master Mason membership requirement. We know that thanks to the unintended experiment that has been the troubles in Arkansas, which bears out the flaw in the terror. Freemasonry did not die in Arkansas and neither did the Shrine.

Arkansas was the test case. When the troubles began between that state’s largest Grand Lodge and the Shrine, Shriners International in 2013 changed its bylaws to allow non-Masons in Arkansas to join. Hodapp blogged about that development in July of that year, announcing, “The slippery slope has begun.”

Only, it really didn’t.

In the past six years, there has been no real move to yank Shriners International’s Master Mason membership requirement outside of Arkansas, which means the experiment happened only in that one U.S. state. Over the past six years, the state’s largest male-only grand lodge has suffered a drop in the number of is members, largely because it expelled Freemasons who decided to join the Shrine anyway. Still others transferred membership to other grand lodges still on good terms with the Shrine.

However, while the number of Freemasons in good standing in the Grand Lodge of Arkansas went down, the grand lodge did not die; and the Shrine’s bylaw change allowed it to shore up its own membership until the troubles in that state passed.

Which they apparently did this month. In addition to Sexton’s edict, Shriners International has signaled that it will restore the Master Mason membership requirement in Arkansas.

The experiment is over.

From my position of safety – seriously, I have no ball to drop in this ballot box – I also would hope that the Grand Lodge of Arkansas and the Shrine learned a few things. Obviously, the Shrine dropping its Master Mason membership requirement didn’t destroy male-only Freemasonry in Arkansas’ largest grand lodge; and the Shrine weathered the storm without the Grand Lodge of Arkansas. They are not mutually exclusive, they can part ways and walk their separate paths.

It can happen.

I think, for the sake of male-only Freemasonry and the Shrine, it should happen.

I also think there’s a larger lesson to be learned from this experiment. Imagine how much better things would have been, for both organizations, had the Grand Lodge of Arkansas not forbade its members from joining a nonMasonic (the Shrine is NOT Freemasonry), philanthropic organization that does so much good in the world. The Grand Lodge of Arkansas would not have suffered such a drop in membership numbers over more than half a decade and the Shrine could have continued its good work without all the drama.

What business is it of any grand lodge what other “civic organization” its members join? Why should U.S.-based Freemasons put up with any imposition on their constitutional rights?

It has been an interesting experiment to observe. From my position of safety, that of a cranky old Co-Masonic past master (highly strung opinions apparently emerge once the 47th Proposition of Euclid is imposed), I believe the experiment was a success. And should be tried again.

For now, Shriners International and the Grand Lodge of Arkansas are, publicly at least, returning to their historical rapprochement. However, I cannot be the only one who has noticed a change.

 

The Co-Mason on the 50 Dollar Bill

By Karen Kidd, PM
(I speak only for me)

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 Club for 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.

Also the same year she was initiated, Edith became one of the first women elected to the Anglican Synod, of which she became a co-opted member in 1923.

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.

In 1975, Edith was featured on an Australian postage stamp.

Her great-great-nephew, David Malcolm, became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Western Australia in 1988.

In 1991, Western Australian College of Advanced Education became the fourth university in Western Australia and took on a new name: Edith Cowan University.

And an idealized engraved portrait of Edith Cowan has featured on the reverse of Australia’s 50 dollar bill since 1995.

The Five Stages of Malecraft Acceptance of Female-Only and Co-Freemasonry

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.From Free Images denial cropped.jpg

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 From Free Images anger cropped.jpgnot 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 “MasonicFrom Free Images bargaining cropped.jpg 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.

K.

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, From Free Images soul searching cropped.jpgacceptance 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

From Free Images acceptance cropped.jpg

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. 🙂