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Archive for June, 2012

Middle-aged Adolescents Away from Their Wives

Posted by heyrandy on June 8, 2012

Ritual America, Secret Brotherhoods and Their Influence on American Society, Adam Parfrey and Craig Heimbichner, 2012

The authors give us a good look at many of America’s fraternal organizations. Complete with photographs, the book traces the history and practices of those middle-aged men in funny hats.

Most lodges are ignored by non-members. Lodge membership is often looked on as “Oh yeah, that.” Little thought is given to it. It should get more thought. The authors give the subject a lot of thought, often humorous. The lodges sometimes are parodies of themselves. Think of a Shriner’s parade: fat guys in red fezzes  driving tiny cars. It is enough to make a sane person run. The question is which way: To or from the lodge?

All in the lodge is not sweetness and light and silliness. The authors point out the abuse of lodge secrecy. There have been cases of lodge members using their meetings for crime. Perhaps the most famous are the P2 lodge in Italy and the Captain Morgan case in America.

Lodges have long been suspect. They are the subject of much conspiracy theorizing. Some of it justified. Mostly the lodges are meetings of average men doing silly rituals they claim to keep secret. They make take the secret handshake and passwords seriously, but it strikes me as dumb. Take a good look at one of the book’s photographs of a group of men in Masonic regalia. These are not the look of men with whom I would plan to seize control of the world. Or do they look that way to deflect suspicion?

Most lodges are either direct offshoots of the Masons or are modeled after them. Some lodge orders are lodges within the lodge. It is like a series of concentric circles. There is always a ring you are not within. The appeal of knowing some secret, being part of the inner group is a large part of the appeal. Knowing what the signs, symbols, passwords, clothing mean is all part  of the mystique and fun. Boys form clubs, men form lodges. The idea is the same: I am in, you are not. It does not matter that being in does not mean anything. It is low-brow elitism.

There are even lodges for women and children. Can no one escape?

If you were to ask the average lodge member if he really believes that oath he swore, would he tell you he did? I find it difficult to reconcile blood oaths with the shallow secrets of the lodges. Who cares what the symbol means? What are you going to do if someone tells all? What secrets do you have left? How long have the Masons been around and there are still secrets?

Lodges do serve the purpose of helping establish a network of “the boys.” Some lodges sponsor charitable works. I think it is mostly an excuse to spend a night out away from “the wife.” Too bad. I prefer the company of my wife to that of guys in tiny cars. Besides, me in a fez? Never!, I swear.



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