The He-man Woman-Haters Club Mentality

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners  


For those of you old enough to have watched “Our Gang” commonly known as “The Little Rascals”, you will be familiar with The He-Man Woman-Haters club. The club was a neighborhood boys club founded by Spanky and was made up of nearly all the boys who appeared on “Our Gang”. In the short film, "Hearts are Thumps", Spanky, Alfalfa, and Buckwheat have no interest in observing Valentine's Day. To prove it, Spanky establishes the He-Man Woman-Haters' Club to serve as their united front against the holiday.  It is also (re)-formed in the short film: "Mail and Female" as a reaction to not being invited to a MacGillicuddy Girls party. After reading the comments on a Facebook post advertising a zoom meeting that UGLE (The United Grand Lodge of England) is sponsoring on May 4: "Freemasonry for Women", I believe that it might have evolved into a sub-set of our membership.

Full disclosure, I have absolutely no issue with Women Freemasons. I also have no problem with Co-Ed Freemasonry. I am a member of the Oddfellows, and pre-pandemic, I had the ability to sit in an Oddfellows Lodge made up of both men and women.  I am more concerned about the survival of the Craft than I am with adhering to our landmarks. Our landmarks were created at times where other men were held as property, and when women were thought of as such. Landmarks can change. To illustrate my point, there was a time that a man having a physical deformity was ineligible for Masonic membership, but that landmark was dropped. I would like to believe that our membership has grown and become more enlightened over our long history, but reading some of the comments on the post quickly made me realize we still have a lot of growing to do.

While the United Grand Lodge of England does not officially recognize either Female Grand Lodge (The Order of Women Freemasons and Freemasonry for Women-The Honourable Fraternity of Anceint Freemasons or HFAF) in the UK as being officially being regular, it has stated they are regular in their practice. (See below for their official statement).

A statement issued by UGLE – 10th March 1999
There exist in England and Wales at least two Grand Lodges solely for women. Except that these bodies admit women, they are, so far as can be ascertained, otherwise regular in their practice. There is also one which admits both men and women to membership. They are not recognised by this Grand Lodge and intervisitation may not take place. There are, however, discussions from time to time with the women’s Grand Lodges on matters of mutual concern. Brethren are therefore free to explain to non-Masons, if asked, that Freemasonry is not confined to men(even though this Grand Lodge does not itself admit women). Further information about these bodies may be obtained by writing to the Grand Secretary. The Board is also aware that there exist other bodies not directly imitative of pure antient Masonry, but which by implication introduce Freemasonry, such as the Order of the Eastern Star. Membership of such bodies, attendance at their meetings, or participation in their ceremonies is incompatible with membership of this Grand Lodge.
It states on its own website that they follow exactly the same ceremonies and wear the same regalia as male Freemasons, and they often work closely with those Grand Lodges on community and charity projects. The vast majority of members of UGLE that I know could care less about women practicing Freemasonry. Apparently, not so much for some members of our various Grand Lodges, mostly those in America. To be fair, I think this is a minority of members.

It is troubling to me that there is still this subset that has this misogynistic mentality. The idea that somewhere Women Freemasons are practicing Freemasonry is extremely upsetting to them. They fear that recognition of these Grand Lodges as regular might open the floodgates and have women wanting to join their lodge.  
They argue that women would be a distraction in the lodge room because apparently, men that proclaim themselves to have excellent character cannot control themselves around members of the opposite sex.  I'm not even going to dignify the comments about exposing the naked breast with a response.  Then there are the inevitable cries of: What about the landmarks! Hell would freeze over! Over my dead body! My obligation says something different!  The logical fallacy in these arguments is the assumption that these Female Freemasons would want to join their lodge.  To my knowledge, they don't want to infiltrate your lodge because they do not want a Co-Ed lodge, they just want to be able to practice Freemasonry with other females.  

Another argument is based upon the false belief that Lodges are only practicing regular Freemasonry when they are recognized as being regular. While there are still unfortunately a handful of Grand Lodges in the United States that do not recognize Prince Hall as being regular; did Freemasonry change for the members of those Grand Lodges that have recognized them as such? Not to my knowledge. Did anything that PHA does in their ritual change when they were “Recognized”? No. Because even though they were not recognized as such, they were already practicing regular Freemasonry. The same applies to these Female Grand Lodges.  

Many of you may not know that one of these Female Grand Lodges, the HFAF, has established a Lodge in Washington D.C.  The lodge is America No.57, and their Worshipful Master is Ms. Lourdes P. Elias, who is the spouse of MWB Akram Elias. MWB Elias is a Past Grandmaster of the Grand Lodge of Washington D.C. and you probably would recognize him from his appearances on various History Channel programs.  Do you think that MWB Elias doesn't support his wife or her lodge because it isn't recognized as regular?  Do you think that the prayers offered by their Chaplain, Commander Lynn Chow, USN, Ret are any different?  While I don't personally know MWB Elias, and I am not privy to the prayers used by the HFAF in their ritual, I can make a fairly educated guess that the answer to both of the above questions is No.  I can base my answer upon the opinions expressed by MWB Elias in his Article, Confusion in the Temple.  If you have an opportunity to read it, I would urge you to do so. (https://www.dcgrandlodge.org/uploads/6/9/5/4/6954862/voice_2019_issue_02-final.pdf)     

It is my belief that the real reason for the misogynistic mentality displayed when the idea of Women and Freemasonry comes up is the fear of change.  This is the same fear of change that is evidenced within a lodge whenever a member attempts to suggest an idea that hasn't been tried before and has the idea summarily dismissed because it has never been tried before. For these members, the customary norm would be upset by attempting any new idea because the lodge has already established a pattern of what is considered an acceptable idea.  They believe that the banality of mindlessly following the status quo is protecting their stated meeting, their local lodge's identity, and by extension, Freemasonry as a whole from change and that this status quo has to be preserved at all costs.  It is this type of mentality that is displayed by our membership that is one of the leading factors in why we are seeing declining membership numbers.  What I can say with conviction is this: Freemasonry will not change for you nor will it change for the Women practicing it regardless of your opinion of them. 

If women want to practice Freemasonry, then let them. The system of morality that Freemasonry teaches does not apply just to the male gender. The values that we promote do not either. In my mind the more people that practice the ideals of Freemasonry, the better our society is, especially in today’s world. I would further argue that our ideals are needed more now than ever before. Does it really matter if a “Recognized Regular” lodge is spreading them? I don't think so. Does it lessen or cheapen the way you practice Freemasonry in your own lodge? It absolutely should not.  Please stop acting like they don't exist, or belittling them for existing when what they do has no bearing on you.      

Those of you that might identify as members of the He-Man Woman-Haters club, it is time for you to stop worrying about how others practice Freemasonry and focus on how you are doing it in your own lodge. If you want something to worry about I offer the following suggestions: 
Worry about why you cannot recruit new members, or retain ones that you have.  
Worry about why lodge attendance is lagging. 
Worry about why Masonic education is not being prioritized, because if it was, you and other members of your lodge might learn that Women and Freemasonry do indeed have a rich and fascinating history. 
If you're anything like me, you probably have plenty to worry about.  Personally, I would rather use my energy to focus on a solution to an issue that will help my local lodge.

Like it or not, Female Freemasonry is not going anywhere, and I dare say there will come a time when UGLE or another Grand Lodge will recognize one or all of them as regular. Are you really going to demit when that happens?  If you answer this question affirmatively, then your protest isn't going to hurt anyone except for the other members of your local lodge.  They are the ones that are depending on you to make a quorum for the next stated meeting.  What is more important to you?    

~DAL       

WB Darin A. Lahners is our co-managing Editor.  He is a Past Master of and Worshipful Master of St. Joseph Lodge No.970 in St. Joseph. He is also a plural member of Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL), where he is also a Past Master. He’s a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, a charter member of Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282 and is the current Secretary of the Illini High Twelve Club No. 768 in Champaign – Urbana (IL). You can reach him by email at darin.lahners@gmail.com

Returning From Refreshment to Labor

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Randy Sanders




I'm officially old. I don't mean the aches and pains of getting out of bed or such. I overheard The Clash being played on the local Easy Listening station. Yes indeed, punk rock is now easy listening. It took me back to some more indiscreet years and times in my life, but it also gave me pause to think about the transition of the generations through Freemasonry, and how we must embrace the changes of society while not embracing change just for the sake of trying something differently.

I recently had the pleasure to revisit some of the work of Steinmetz, who along with Manly Hall, were very much focused on educating Masons on the esoteric meanings of Freemasonry. Yeah, yeah, we're all about esoteric education. You can't go five minutes without someone telling you how deeply esoteric they are, and how the lodges have to adapt or die. These well-meaning Masons have a point, but have these individual Masons done the work Steinmetz, Hall, and so many more describe? Too many of our lodge brothers want to be heard, but have they actually listened themselves? Have they done the Great Work? Are they pushing change and deep symbolism without having experienced the result of months or even years of silent contemplation? The answer is mixed, and all should be respected for their views no matter how far or how little they've traveled up the mountain.

Every Mason has the right to be heard in lodge. Older and hopefully wiser Masons must be patient with the views and gently guide the conversation toward individual Self-reflection and contemplation. That's right. The Masons reading this are the ones now older and hopefully wiser, yes you. Furthermore, we each have a duty to be there for our Brothers. I don't mean we should direct their actions. I believe we can and should set the example of a contemplative practice that leads to deeper thinking and can help move us out of our cognitive biases. Our Grand Lodges very wisely avoid the expression of "being esoteric" except in roundabout statements and not defining the deeply esoteric nature of studying philosophy or putting into practice the lessons of the ages. Let's not give our Grand Lodges, who rightfully should be focused on the administrative function, any grief over being more or less esoteric. That's not their function, and I'm grateful for their service in an area that requires a massive dedication of time in order to be effective. Rather than look to the leadership at a jurisdiction or even lodge level, the path has always been internal. Why make a big scene out of a splinter in your brothers' eyes when we have trees poking out of our own eyes?

Steinmetz makes a great point about candidates receiving Rights, Lights, and Benefits of a Lodge, each in their individual way. The path is opened before them, and it remains the choice of that initiated Mason how much contemplative practice to pursue. It also remains the choice of that individual Mason how quickly they progress, or how much work is put into the study of the Great Lights. The argument of how esoteric lodges are or should be is nothing new. Steinmetz witnessed the same issues as did the generations before him and the generations following now. We lead the Masons to water (education), and then we are disappointed when they don't follow through on their own (apply contemplative practice) as quickly as we might have done. Maybe that's not where we should be focused, on our disappointment in others? Maybe we should keep that door to the library open, and express the joy felt when others join us, rather than focus on the negative disappointment? If that means we eat pancakes and green beans and practice the basic brotherhood from which this amazing journey all springs? Yeah, I can do that. I will also delight as more join us in our contemplative studies and individual Self-discovery.

The message from Steinmetz, Hall, McNulty, Wilmhurst, and so many more Masonic authors is not about other Masons but an introspective journey into one's Self. This is where each of us can say "It's all about me" and mean it. I remain grateful seeing Masons taking advantage of the Information Age in further teaching symbolism and philosophy, and we collectively have taken the opportunity over the past year to dive deeply into exactly that - exploring symbolic lodge practices. I commend all who have taken it upon themselves to do so. As we open back up to the business of making new Masons, let us keep in mind the deeper aspects of the philosophy. We who continued to spread the light need to continue but also pass the torch, or maybe help other torches be lit, in order to bring this past year's opportunity back to our otherwise Green Bean and Pancake lodges. I don't mean shove your new education down the throats of the lodge brethren. I'm too old to even consider that an option while I crank up The Clash, Led Zeppelin, and some Rush. I just think we can prove to the lodges that the time taken to do your daily contemplative practice has impacted you positively. You didn't do your contemplative work during the past year? OK, there's no better time to start than today. That new Mason is counting on you.

~Bro. Randy

Bro. Randy and his wife Elyana live in O'Fallon, MO just outside of St. Louis. Randy earned a
Bachelors in Chemistry with an emphasis in Biochemistry, and he works in telecom IT. He volunteers his time as a professional and personal mentor, is an NRA certified Chief Range Safety Officer, and enjoys competitive tactical pistol. He has a 30+ year background teaching Wing Chun Kung Fu, Chi Kung, and healing arts. Randy's Masonic bio includes lodge education officer of two blue lodges, running the Wentzville Lodge Book Club, active in York Rite AMD, Scottish Rite Valley of St. Louis co-librarian, Clerk of the Academy Of Reflection through the Valley of Guthrie, a trained facilitator for the Masonic Legacy Society. As a pre-COVID-19 pioneer in Masonic virtual education, Randy is an administrator of Refracted Light and an international presenter on esoteric topics. Randy enjoys facilitating and presenting Masonic esoteric education, and he hosts an open, weekly Masonic virtual Friday Happy Hour. Randy is an accomplished home chef, a certified barbecue judge, raises Great Pyrenees dogs, and enjoys travel and philosophy.

The Whiskey Barrel

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Steven L. Harrison 33˚, FMLR


In today's bustling twenty-first century world, millions of people travel across the country quickly, comfortably, and without giving it a second thought. During the mid 19th century, people's desire to make that crossing was no less enthusiastic, but the trip was anything but pleasant. Such was the experience of three men who had made their way across the treacherous plains to the west coast town of Oregon City.


These men, Joseph Hull, P.G. Stewart, and William P. Dougherty, Freemasons, hoped to establish a Masonic Lodge in the area. On February 5, 1846, they placed an ad in the Oregon City newspaper calling for members of the Masonic fraternity to meet on February 21, "to adopt some measures to obtain a charter for a Lodge."


On that date, seven Brothers met and crafted a request for a charter from the closest Grand Lodge which, at that time, was in St. Louis, Missouri, over 2,000 miles away. They found a Brother, Joel Palmer, who was headed back east, instructing him to deliver it to the closest Masonic Lodge, Platte City 56, in St. Joseph Missouri.  


Brother Palmer made that Journey during the summer of 1846. Platte City Lodge then delivered the request to the Grand Lodge of Missouri, which granted the charter for Multnomah Lodge 84 on October 19.


The Grand Lodge sent the charter back to Platte City Lodge but it became difficult to find a suitable person to deliver it back to Oregon. Finally, they entrusted the precious document to Pierre Barlow Cornwall, who began the westward journey on April 1, 1848, over two years after the Oregon Brothers made the request.


When Cornwall reached Fort Hall, Idaho in August 1848, he heard about the discovery of gold in California and abandoned any thought of going to Oregon. He entrusted the charter to two Masons he had met along the way, Joseph and Orrin Kellog, then headed out in an attempt to make his fortune. The Kelloggs finally delivered the charter on September 11, 1848, two years and seven months after the initial request.


After all that time with little or no news of its whereabouts, we can only imagine the thrill the Oregon Brothers must have felt receiving that document. Joseph Hull, who became the first Master, was so excited he called a meeting on that very day! The Brothers met at noon on the second floor of a building owned by Dougherty.  The improvised wardens podiums consisted of a barrel of flour in the East, a barrel of whiskey in the West and a barrel of salt pork in the South, symbolically representing corn, wine and oil.


During the next several hours, the Brothers consecrated the Lodge, elected officers, held three Entered Apprentice, three Fellowcraft, and two Master Mason degrees, wrapping things up sixteen hours later.


One cannot help but wonder if, at the end of such an epic journey capped by that auspicious day, those Brothers didn't break open that barrel of whiskey at the Senior Warden's station and toast the establishment of the first Masonic Lodge in the untamed American West.


~SLH

Bro. Steve Harrison, 33°  is Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri. He is also a Fellow and Past Master of the Missouri Lodge of Research. Among his other Masonic memberships is the St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite bodies, and Moila Shrine. He is also a member and Past Dean of the DeMolay Legion of Honor. Brother Harrison is a regular contributor to the Midnight Freemasons blog as well as several other Masonic publications. Brother Steve was Editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine for a decade and is a regular contributor to the Whence Came You podcast. Born in Indiana, he has a Master's Degree from Indiana University and is retired from a 35-year career in information technology. Steve and his wife Carolyn reside in northwest Missouri. He is the author of dozens of magazine articles and three books: Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi, Freemasons — Tales From the Craft and Freemasons at Oak Island.

Meme's the Word

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Ken JP Stuczynski



Human language is ever-evolving. Its basic units could be said to be words, be they made of phonetic symbols (alphabets) or pictograms (such as Chinese). To these, we have added the rich shorthand language of emojis, which, as we speak, are being codified into international standards just like other fonts and symbol sets. But because of our new ability to share ideas instantly, a new form of communication has arisen -- the meme.

No one should bore themselves studying the formal definitions and theories about such things. As a matter of how everyday people use the term, a meme is simply the smallest unit of expressing a self-contained idea, reaction, or argument. It could be a joke or expressing a reaction using a recognizable person's expression. It might be a scene in a movie or some other cultural reference. But very often, it's a statement of opinion or belief. It might even make fun of other people's beliefs. A million statements are accompanied by photos of famous people, implying it's their opinion when it is more often a dishonest effort at credibility through subconscious association. In other words, memes can be pure rhetoric, akin to the revolutionary or wartime posters of the 20th Century.

And this is where the general public comes in. Sharing other people's words and ideas is so easy and instantaneous it has become a thoughtless act. It doesn't always reflect who we are, but it does paint a picture, intended or not. It also reveals our triggers and prejudices and sense of propriety.

I'm not talking about guilting people into sharing sob stories or anonymous religious promises to be blessed. It's even okay to get scammed into sharing supposedly banned content out of knee-jerk defiance. Those are silly but harmless. Heck, sometimes we promote satire as real news. We've all been guilty of such things, myself included.

However, we also share things that mock other people's viewpoints we don't care to understand, not knowing who among our friends and Brothers will be offended. Worse yet, we stopped caring, even mocking people who are rightfully offended. We libel charities and famous people, and corporations with unexamined claims, thinking it's not our responsibility to check things that may not be true. I'm pretty sure that used to be called gossip, but now it's public, and we lost all sense of shame. Sometimes we even unknowingly pass on content from hate groups we would never otherwise be associated with.

Even though we've been told to think twice before posting once, we're still impulsive creatures. Some messages pit one group of people against another. Why choose sides between veterans and refugees or the elderly and those with student loans? When did we decide falling for scapegoat rhetoric is a public badge of honor? Is making fun of Generation XYZ victimless humor or a lack of respect? We must wonder if we would ever say or share most of what is on our social media wall if we saw all those reading it face to face.

All of this can be summed up in one question: DO WE CARE?

I always thought a Mason's inner motto is WE CARE. We stand for things we believe in, and those include the virtues of truth and tolerance. We all have a right, or even obligation, to take a stand on issues according to our conscience. But we have a responsibility to not repeat other people's dishonesties, even if we agree with them or it sounds true to our viewpoint. We are responsible for civilly refraining from anything that shows blatant contempt or mockery of people with other views. If people know we are Masons but do not know Masonry, will they assume they would never be welcome in a Lodge because they disagree with what they think Masons believe? Think about that one for an hour or two if you haven't already.

The largest conduit for news and ideas today is people like us, not television or the newspaper. We are the purveyors of misinformation more than any news conglomerate. Most people don't even bother to consider the implications. Do our conscience and obligations demand we be better? If we avoid the responsibilities of civil and truthful discourse, we are missing an opportunity to make the world a better place.

~JP

Bro. Ken JP Stuczynski is a member of West Seneca Lodge No.1111 and recently served as Master of Ken-Ton Lodge No.1186. As webmaster for NYMasons.Org, he is on the Communications and Technology Committees for the Grand Lodge of the State of New York. He is also a Royal Arch Mason and 32nd Degree Scottish Rite Mason, serving his second term as Sovereign Prince of Palmoni Council in the Valley of Buffalo, NMJ. He also coordinates a Downtown Square Club monthly lunch in Buffalo, NY. He and his wife served as Patron and Matron of Pond Chapter No.853 Order of the Eastern Star and considered himself a “Masonic Feminist”.