The Art of Manliness and the Craft of Masonry

The Art of Manliness is a website close the the heart of many Freemasons. For those who have never been there, it’s a guide that explores the lost traits and skills of being a man, and how we can get those aspects back into our live. I highly recommend How to Feel Like a Man, the first video of our Internet Lecture Series and a great primer on something freemasonry stresses in our Craft. It’s just one of many places where the art of manliness and the craft of masonry intersect, which is one reason why the site is so popular with masons.

I’ve been reflecting, recently, on the terminology used for the two concepts: the Art of Manliness, and the Craft, which is a synonymous term for Freemasonry in the lodge. Arts and Crafts. Kind of cute. Kind of weird. Why not the Craft of Manliness?
Half the posts are learning how to whittle a workbench with a pocket comb and things like that. It’s certainly pretty crafty. And why isn’t Freemasonry called The Art? A good deal of what we can do, in terms of the degrees, is practically performance art, anyway. Stonemasons made gorgeous works of architecture. Can we not be considered an art?

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Critical Failure: How Does a Lodge Decline to the Point of No Return

CriticalFailure_image_400x260px_Size4Someone raised an interesting question today. He asked if there was a particular number of members a lodge had to drop to, at which point the lodge starts a tailspin to failure, with almost no hope of return. That’s a tough question, and I don’t know if there’s so tidy of an answer to it. It’s no secret that membership in fraternal organizations began a steep decline in the Boomer generation. There were a lot of contributing socio-economic factors, but as the world spins on, things change and now these groups are rebuilding. I fully expect, however, that the destiny of healthy lodges will be smaller and more flexible, and many lodges, even those who have clawed their way through the 80s and 90s, are going to go away…

This post can be read in its entirety at its author’s Masonic blog, Stones n Bones. Click to read!

Masonry – “We Make Men”

Today’s guest post is written by W. B. Nick Johnson, past master of Corinthian Lodge, and blogger at The Millennial Freemason, one of the best blogs out there for and by younger Masons.

Nick Johnson - Past Master

I’ve been asked by Bro. Matt to write on the controversial topic of woman and Masonry. What’s fascinating is that I really didn’t know much about feminine Freemasonry. Looking into it more, women and Freemasonry is not as foreign of a concept as we may think.
The concept of women and Freemasonry began in France in the 18c. In those days, women were not allowed into male lodges. These French Masons were desirous to bring women into the Fraternity in some way so they created “lodges” that practiced the “Rite of Adoption.” The Rite used the three degree format but was not based on the same legend of their male Masonic overseers. The reason that they used the term “Adoption” or “Adoptive” was because the male lodge would be the “parent” of the female lodge.

However, the most important development in bringing women into Masonry in this country was by Robert Morris and the Order of the Eastern Star. Robert Morris was a Past Grand Master of Kentucky and is best known for the Conservator movement. He spent years in forming what would become Star and it wasn’t until he was laid up by illness that he was able to fully create the system we have today (with the help of Macoy). Because I have worked with the women of the local OES Chapter that meets in Farmington, Myrtle No. 13, especially when I was Master, I have a lot of respect for these women.
They dedicate their lives to charity, to self-improvement, and to learning. They perform a century and a half old ritual in the same manner as when it was first constructed. They are as serious if not more serious about their ritual as any Masonic lodge that I have visited.

It’s quite understandable that Masons of nearly every century have sought to bring the spirit of Freemasonry to the important women of their lives even if those women aren’t allowed into lodge. Our tenets, the dedication to brotherly love, relief, and truth, are universal precepts.
Women represent a very important aspect of Masonry, even if they aren’t Masons. They are our wives and mothers, our daughters and friends. Women that choose Star become important Masonic contacts, particularly for the officers of the lodge. Personally, I think there is a time for male only, female-only, and co-ed organizations. Each of these provides a different perspective for improvement. There really is a time for every purpose under heaven.

I like my male only lodge. It gives me a time to discuss with other men their lives and mine, and their thoughts and mine. Men need a place to be, to put it frankly, men. I’m not as concerned with the death of maleness but I do share some of the same opinions as Robert Bly. Men are an experimental species and we need those myths and rites of passage because our maturity does not come to us from some biological clock. Freemasonry is that rite of passage; it gives a man a new starting point into adulthood, even if he joins in his 40s or 50s. Maleness is not under assault as much as it is being forgotten. Bly describes these men as half-adults, never fully reaching maturity. Through Masonic practice, we can stitch both halves together.

We seek to make “good men better” but I would argue that our mission statement could be reduced to three words, “we make men.” We need to make better leaders, better fathers, and better husbands. The only way we can do that is by leaving the TV set behind and becoming reacquainted with our maleness. The only way we can do this is in a male-only organization.

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