Freemachonry

Most of the old web boards where I used to hang out with Freemasons from around the globe have quietly gone dark, deserted, or have disappeared entirely, as threaded conversations have moved over to social media sites. That’s not an entirely bad thing, because the social sites like Facebook and Google Plus tend to attract many younger Masons, who in addition to text can now use pictures and video to share their experiences. Facebook groups, for example, are filled with pictures of newly raised Master Masons, shots of their lodge, their rings (worn properly, of course), and various other examples of Masonic displays.

Where we once were  known as “the quiet fraternity,” we now have a host of designs to adorn our cars, hats, jackets, shirts, belt buckles, computer or phone desktops, and pretty much anyplace else we can think of. Some of the examples of artwork that I’ve seen have been excellently rendered in various image creation & manipulation programs, and I’m often amazed at the detail that some of my graphically inclined brothers can put into those images.

One of the trends that I’ve been noticing has been the masculinization (or rather, the hyper-masculinization) of Freemasonry; that is, of the images and symbols that we use. In the last few years I’ve been seeing more drawings and graphics depicting overly-stylized Square & Compasses adorned with skulls, crossed thighbones, and various edged instruments; some of these artistic variations would seem more at home on the back of a motorcycle jacket, or perhaps adorning a 1980s metal band album cover.

From a technical standpoint, some of those designs are pretty cool in the way that they bring together disparate elements, or in how those elements are repurposed or re-examined. Symbols are not immutable; indeed, they change as the culture in which they are found changes. A good example is how the color pink is now more associated with young girls than with young boys, in a reversal from just a century ago. And new symbols pop up into our culture all the time: think about the red octagon that we now associate with “Stop” or the circle with a diagonal line across it, which now denotes “Prohibited.” Those symbols didn’t exist as such a century ago.

But some symbols are inherently associated with certain groups, and here is where I think that some of us (well, okay, maybe just me) are feeling disconnected. Recently I ran across this cool representation of the well-known symbol of Freemasonry: the overlaid Square & Compasses:

Does anyone happen to know the artist?

Let’s ignore for the moment that the skull is used in Templar Masonry and in the Scottish Rite, but generally not in the Blue Lodge. The skull itself has a furrowed, intent looking brow, Terminator-red eye sockets, and a somewhat threatening visage. It’s not the symbol that inspires one to think about their mortality and place in the world, but rather, to convey a sense of danger, or perhaps challenge. And the sepia tones are a nice contrast to the metalized look of our working tools.

The part that really made me think about this trend was the S&C, itself. What is a Square? Essentially, it is an instrument with a calibrated 90º corner and straight edges that allow us to design, sketch, or true up corners to keep them from going out of alignment. This square, while presenting a nice looking bit of metalwork, almost looks like a machine part. What’s with those inside edges, anyway? How can you trace a design on a trestle board with that? Speaking symbolically, is this teaching us to be true and honest?

I’m not sure where to even begin with the compasses. If the square looks industrialized, the compasses have been weaponized. In real life, a set of compasses is to aid in measuring and drawing arcs and circles; the points of which will scribe a faint line in the material on which they are used. But what is this instrument supposed to do? Those scalpel edges aren’t even in the same axis as the legs – they would scrape the hell out of anything you tried to use it on. The tips are further enhanced with stylized barbs and hooks, which would be pretty inconvenient to use as a hand-held tool. And from a symbolic perspective, our own compasses are supposed to keep us “within due bounds” and to remind us of certain Masonic principles, such as Friendship, Morality, and Brotherly Love. To me, these compasses show the complete opposite of those tenets.

This is just one example, but there are many such depictions readily available on Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and other social media sites. I’m at a loss for an explanation, but I’ve been wondering if for a generation of men who may  have spent more time playing indoors than outside, Freemasonry is how they are rediscovering their own sense of masculinity and what it means to be a Man (capitalized) in a society that has actively sought to eliminate any dangers, real or imagined. Playground recess has been cancelled or restricted in many schools, as has ball-playing and running or racing games. Playground equipment is now designed with the avoidance of possible lawsuits, which means anything more than the swings or slides is now off limits. Even pick-up games in the suburbs are a rarity, having been replaced by child-league sports, overly-supervised by adults. Television and movies often present an ambivalent take on adult men or masculinity, and studios are becoming more fearful of alienating potential viewers by presenting old-school male role models — unless it’s to point out that they are dinosaurs in our modern age.

Have these kinds of influences led the newer generations of young men into turning Freemasonry into not just a men’s society, but a masculinity rediscovery society?

 

 

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  1. May 13, 2015 at 11:58 am

    Nice thoughts Brother Tom.
    It’s all “momento mori” the last few years, especially with tattoos, but I think the trend is passing. We first made our Mortality ring about six years ago. It’s been quite popular, especially boys being boys, we like to look dangerous and tough. However, we won’t be making anything else like that, to avoid a gentle fraternity turning into a scary looking motorcycle club, all skulls and daggers.

    I’d rather see a more humble “jedi” approach, as these symbols are the easy path to the dark side.

    Many are lamenting the fate of unabashed masculinity. Who is still man enough to state and stand up for their opinions without worrying about insulting someone? I remember a friend who wasn’t ashamed to speak his mind, he was occasionally even embarrassing to be around, but I always admired that he was often right. That’s the best thing about old Past Masters!

    We as Freemasons work to master our use of symbols, and we can be strong enough to handle these sorts of icons. However, strong symbols like these retain more of their power when used with humility and discretion, such as hidden in our heart, on the reverse of a flip ring or in a secret book. They are pacts we make with the GAOTU, not profaned declarations of how esoteric we are.

    Yours Fraternally,

    Drew

    Like

  2. May 13, 2015 at 2:53 pm

    Bro. Drew, always a pleasure.

    And I should mention that I’m not really complaining about the new wave of graphic designs. I guess I’m questioning what the people wearing them expect that they are conveying.

    Like

  3. June 10, 2015 at 1:46 pm

    Brother Tom Accuosti,

    Wonderful post!
    This reawakened several thoughts and views that I’ve explored in my head over the years.

    (My phone is low on juice, so pardon the hasty response that my scatterbrain is tossing about)

    There’s an unwritten law. At least, within me.
    At first glance you can appreciate the artwork; although, as soon as your attention for detail alarm sounds, there’s much more at stake.

    I agree with your fraternal interpretation of this piece. As well as for the psychological theory that may have brought this trend to certain heights.
    Bottom line, we are not a gang.
    Boasting, bragging and broadcasting on multiple platforms that you are a Freemason has been a sullen turnoff for me.
    If those actions and that mindset are in the forefront of “New Masons”, it surely holds true that tough guy status and attention beakers need to be filled – that speaks volumes on character.

    I get the whole thing towards showing off “your masonry”. I’m a graphic artist and as far as the artwork that is being used for the example, for all we know, the artist tied in personal aspects for this design.
    Though, in many cases, some people tend to have a false sense of power and a skewed perception of self.

    There’s several tentacles that I would like to mention but my phone is low and I also have a voice saying, “Easy now. Don’t start foaming at the mouth” lol.
    One would be, how we raise our children in a digital world.
    Not everyone comes from the same upbringing. Not everyone handles personal challenges the same – or recognize them for that matter.

    Where is the line drawn in the West?

    Like

  1. January 13, 2016 at 8:47 pm

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