There are many, many Freemasons who would note that there is nothing about Freemasonry that is feminine. It is a masculine fraternity in their eyes, where men get together to make “good men better,” and the term “fraternity” itself indicates, to them, a wholly male organization.* While that might be true for some Masonic Orders, it is certainly not true for all.
As we’ve previously discussed, Freemasons are men and women, of all races, creeds, and religious backgrounds. As we’ve also noted in the earlier article on Gender and Freemasonry, gender has far more to do with the essence of “things” than it does with sexual aspects of humanity. Let’s lift the idea of Freemasonry as being purely masculine, and look the world of Hermetic principles and gender. Where does the Feminine find itself within Freemasonry?
We are speaking here beyond titles. Masonic titles are in most languages gendered. There is “Brother” and “Sister” both of which have a gendered connotation. However, they are titles, and while there may be the open division between physical gender in some Masonic Orders, in at least one order, all members are designated “Brother.” Why? First, we have to remember that a title is nothing more than an honorific designation – in this case, it designates a member of a Freemasonic order. It is not a designation of gender any more than “Doctor” is a designation of gender. There is baggage we all have around titles that have gender associations; there is a reason most people never refer to stewardesses any longer on flights. Actors are actors, not actors and actresses, as waiters are waiters, not waiters and waitresses. We have begun tearing down the divisions of gender and working toward the idea of unity. We designate each other with the best word we can for Freemasons – Brother.
However, as I noted, this discovery goes beyond title. If we view the Lodge Room, the Temple, as a receptive place, it is a container and vessel for creation. Ergo, the Temple is feminine. It is receiving humanity, the Brothers (masculine energy), to build something. Masculine is outgoing and active. It requires a balance to hold its nature to form. It requires a Temple that can handle that energy and transform it. Is there any doubt why the Masonic Temple and its accoutrement should not be in its best upkeep and fitness? We want a healthy mother to be able to birth a healthy child. Is this not the same?
As the Lodge is feminine, so to I believe, is the ritual. The ritual form, written and memorized, requires action to give it life. It requires an active, outward principal to give it life. Here to again, the Brothers of the Lodge are the masculine principle, taking thoughtforms and words and creating intended action in three dimensional space. Ritual requires proper and strong expression (masculine) of imagination (feminine); both are necessary to enact a whole ceremony.
At many times during different rituals, an officer changes polarity from masculine to feminine. There is a shifting flow to Masonic ritual that encourages its adherents to explore the energies of both active and passive principles. There is also a neutrality in the Lodge that is carried by significant officers; the balance is required to ensure one gender does not dominate. There is always, like the Sefirot of the Kabbalah, a middle path, a neutral state in Freemasonry that guides the poles and the swing of the spiritual, mental, emotional and physical pendulum. That is, for every pair of floor officers, there is a neutral body to perhaps bring balance to the erratic nature of the human embodying the office. Let me explain.
The officer that receives a candidate, a guide if you will, is always in the masculine aspect of their office. They need to care for and have regard for their charge. They are the voice of the neophyte when they cannot speak. The candidate is feminine – they are receiving the gift of the ritual, and incorporating it into their person. They must use imagination to connect to the offering. Here, again, it is of no consequence what the physical gender of a person may be; we all must learn to tap into our receptive nature to be a vessel for creation of any kind. After the candidate has completed their ritual, the officer in question will fall back to their intended place in the structure of the Lodge. That may be a receptive principle, feminine, to their counterpart’s masculine, directive role. The moon with its rays of reflected sunlight guides the night but eventually, the sun, the primary assertive principle, returns to assume its directive place in the heavens.
It is important to note here that the Sun has not always assumed the mantle of masculine and the Moon has not always been feminine. In order, pre-Sanskrit-based language, the denomination was reversed; we find this in Babylonian, early Egyptian, and earlier mythologies where the Sun was represented by feminine avatars. This subject is far too dense to dive into here; suffice to say that in the most recent times, the gender of these celestial bodies has changed and it might be worth noting that the attributes of feminine are found in the Sun, while attributes of the masculine may be found in the Moon.
Returning to the officers, we find the masculine, feminine, and neutral manifested in the three main officers of a Lodge. The W.J.W. is indicative of mid-day, when the sun is at its highest. This speaks of the dominant and assertive nature of that office; whereas, the W.S.W. is the sun as it recedes into darkness, It is the coolness of the moon, of night, of dreams and reception. One might dismiss their attribute, will or strength, as being a purely masculine trait but this is not the case. The feminine here is about transparency and about seeing the Other; the W.S.W. sees the entirety of the Lodge and is responsible for its voice. There is a calm confidence in their presentations to the Lodge – here is what has been made and it is of us.
It is clear that one cannot speak of the aspects of gender in a vacuum. We must reference one or the other to illustrate the differences and provide opportunities to think about principles which are not easily familiar to us in our common lives. In the next part, we’ll discuss the Masculine aspects of Freemasonry in more detail, in balance with the neutral lines that demark the place of balance, the center point were perhaps a greater vision of unity may be achieved.
* However, this commonly held belief, ie. that fraternities are wholly male organizations is erroneous. Though many people use their term “fraternity” to refer exclusively to men’s groups, many women’s groups officially call themselves fraternities. For example, the earliest chartered collegiate female fraternal organizations:
1. Kappa Alpha Theta 2. Kappa Kappa Gamma [Both Fraternities were founded in 1870], 3. Alpha Phi Fraternity , 4. Delta Gamma , 5. Gamma Phi Beta and 6. Sigma Kappa [Both founded in 1874], etc., as well as other mixed Fraternities, which admit both men and women at such colleges as Wesleyan and UMASS.
Gamma Phi Beta was the first collegiate women’s organization to be called a “sorority,” a term coined by Latin professor Dr. Frank Smalley at Syracuse University. The terms “sorority” and women’s “fraternity” have since been used interchangeably.