Thanks, mattbucher! October 10, 2008 8:13 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to publicly thank MeFi user mattbucher for helping make last night a wonderful experience.

It started with this AskMefi post about Freemasonry back in 2007. Matt answered some questions and invited people to email him if they had any other questions about Masonry.

My grandfather had been a Mason, so I'd always been interested in the organization. I emailed Matt, and he was very helpful in steering me towards more sources of information. Unfortunately I went into the hospital about a week later, and the Masonry stuff got dropped by the wayside.

In June of this year I contacted Matt again, and he gave some more pointers about contacting some local Masonic lodges to find out more info. I sent out emails, and ended up visiting a local Lodge a couple of times before I submitted a petition for membership in August.

Due to some staff changes at the Lodge the process took a while but my membership was eventually voted on last week and I was accepted as a member of Gray Lodge #329 here in Houston.

Last night was my initiation as an Entered Apprentice Freemason. Matt drove from Austin to Houston so that he could meet me in person and attend. He had dinner with everyone, participated in the ceremony, and presented me with a Masonic gift afterwards.

I'm having a hard time putting this into words - but it all boils down to "neat things happen when people meet on MeFi".

Matt, thanks for the help, the advice, and the friendship.
posted by mrbill to MetaFilter-Related at 8:13 PM (48 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

Did he give you a pair of special underpants?
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 8:15 PM on October 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Are you allowed to spill the ancient Mason secrets to MetaFilter yet?
posted by piratebowling at 8:29 PM on October 10, 2008


When I clicked on 'I'd like to publicly thank MeFi user mattbucher for helping make last night a wonderful experience,' I didn't think the more-inside would involve Freemasonry.
posted by box at 8:33 PM on October 10, 2008 [52 favorites]


Have fun controlling the British Crown and keeping the metric system down...
posted by jonmc at 8:40 PM on October 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


My only reference to freemasonry is Cremaster 3 so I can only imagine what kind of crazy shit went on last night.
posted by puke & cry at 8:43 PM on October 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


piratebowling beat me to it.
posted by Caduceus at 8:56 PM on October 10, 2008


Have fun controlling the British Crown and keeping the metric system down...

As long as we get more Steve Guttenberg movies, I'm happy.
posted by inigo2 at 9:05 PM on October 10, 2008


I missed that thread when it first appeared, but as another MeFi Mason, I am also happy for mrbill and pleased with mattbucher for his efforts. Good work, both of you!

Bro. Senior Warden yhbc,
Montgomery Lodge, Milford, Massachusetts
posted by yhbc at 9:16 PM on October 10, 2008


You LOOOOOVE Him. You want to MAAARRRY him.

No, seriously, this is cool. I missed the thread. Neato.
posted by The Whelk at 9:23 PM on October 10, 2008


Did they show you how to butter your bricks?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:45 PM on October 10, 2008


All I know is what I read in From Hell.

So, uh, you've always been alright in my books, mrbill. Congrats! And please don't hurt me!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:45 PM on October 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wow, what are the odds?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:50 PM on October 10, 2008


Wait, do you mean...

...there is a cabal?
posted by enn at 9:51 PM on October 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Nice knowing you, enn.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:59 PM on October 10, 2008


Yes, but did he explain about the Dixons?
posted by wendell at 10:03 PM on October 10, 2008 [4 favorites]


A friend asked "So, do you get a discount on the jars?"
posted by mrbill at 10:11 PM on October 10, 2008 [4 favorites]


It seems so strange to me how jolly MetaFilter is about Freemasonry. Is it that the organisation itself is very different in the US, or that the public perception of the organisation is different? (Here in the UK, they're mostly seen as pretty shady. Not in a 'controlling the world in league with the giant lizard people' way, but certainly in a 'if you're a policeman, judge or magistrate and a mason, you need to declare it so we can make sure you're not corrupting the justice system' way.)
posted by jack_mo at 4:13 AM on October 11, 2008


Now let's all get drunk and play ping-pong!
posted by EarBucket at 5:14 AM on October 11, 2008


Here in the UK, they're mostly seen as pretty shady.

Nah, here they're just a bunch of dudes who get together to socialize and do a bit of necromancy.
posted by Greg Nog at 5:26 AM on October 11, 2008 [6 favorites]


I can attest that mattbucher is an all-around great dude and I am glad that he helped you with your extended AskMe quest(ion).

Here in the UK, they're mostly seen as pretty shady.


The US had an anti-Mason push (and an actual political party) back in the mid-1800's but lately there's no generalized disdain. The Masons in the US went through some PR campaign where there was a 2B1ASK1 slogan on bumperstickers and billboards (i.e. if you want to be a Mason just talk to one, it's not a huge secret like people think it is) and it doesn't have the same shady overtones. I mean people still make jokes and whatnot, but there's not a large group of people who really believe they've got power.

I used to live and work in an Odd Fellows Hall in Seattle and we were a block away from the Masons Hall and what I found more interesting was the sort of fraternal jousting that would happen between members of the different groups.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:16 AM on October 11, 2008


Congrats. Remove the Stone of Shame and attach the Stone of Triumph.
posted by fire&wings at 6:21 AM on October 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


It seems so strange to me how jolly MetaFilter is about Freemasonry.

This has always amused me too. But the difference in perception each side of the Atlantic is huge. See also the Shriners. I think maybe it has something to do with how obsessed Americans are with joining clubs and societies while we British are fundamentally misanthropic; hanging out with a bunch of other guys in a special hall would seem kinda weird in Britain even if they weren't conducting ceremonies with skulls, corrupting the police force, and in various other ways providing plotlines for episodes of Inspector Morse.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 6:40 AM on October 11, 2008 [4 favorites]


My building super was a Mason, and I went to his Masonic funeral service.

When I asked him (while he was alive) what would qualify someone for membership he said, "If I were to leave you alone with my daughter and a drawer full of cash, I shouldn't have to think, should I trust him? It should never even enter my mind."
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:55 AM on October 11, 2008 [3 favorites]


Where is your lodge? I have (really cool, young) Mason friends in Houston who are members of a lodge in The Heights.
posted by Brittanie at 7:35 AM on October 11, 2008


The old "fraternal" and "secret" organizations have lost membership over the years -- Masons, Oddfellows, Eagles, Shriners, even the Grange.

I've thought about joining the Grange, but there's no local chapter in Seattle (not a surprise, of course, since there hasn't been a farm inside the city limits since WWII, save the one in Maple Leaf).
posted by dw at 8:45 AM on October 11, 2008


They met on Twitter.
posted by Zambrano at 8:59 AM on October 11, 2008


Boaz
posted by kimdog at 10:03 AM on October 11, 2008


Yay, mrbill and mattbucher!

It seems so strange to me how jolly MetaFilter is about Freemasonry. Is it that the organisation itself is very different in the US, or that the public perception of the organisation is different?

I wonder if the perception is different here because the Halls and Temples are rented out all the time for other purposes. There's a Scottish Rite Temple down the street from me, and it's kind of hard to conceive of it as being a den of shady if you've attended your prom or the Black Comedy Showcase there.

The (former) Masonic Temple in San Jose is at 333 Third Street, information which I found very satisfying when I noticed. The Oakland one is not so numerologically auspicious, though it does face south with a grand view of Lake Merritt.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:17 AM on October 11, 2008


Halls and Temples are rented out all the time for other purposes.

In my hometown, the ground floor of the Masonic lodge was the public library until they built a new facility in the early 90s. Once I'm a Master Mason, I plan on going back and properly touring the rest of the building when visiting family.

The Academy Awards were held at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles from 1998 till 2002.
posted by mrbill at 11:42 AM on October 11, 2008


Thanks for the shoutout, mrbill. It was nice to meet you. We had a great meetup (of 2!) there at the lodge. They even let me play a part (secretary) in the initiation. One of the things I like about masonry is that you get to meet people from all sorts of different backgrounds (a computer guy, a pastry chef, insurance salesman, etc.) that you wouldn't otherwise meet.
posted by mattbucher at 1:29 PM on October 11, 2008


Hey, so when do they let you drive around in one of those little cars?
posted by Mister_A at 4:11 PM on October 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


game warden to the events rhino wrote: ...we British are fundamentally misanthropic; hanging out with a bunch of other guys in a special hall would seem kinda weird in Britain...

I don't doubt that we're fundamentally misanthropic, but I've spent enough time at union meetings and in gentlemen's clubs to know that hanging out with a bunch of other guys in a special hall doesn't seem kinda weird in Britain at all!

The Masons in the US went through some PR campaign

That's probably the difference, assuming the insurance salesmen don't offer special deals for pastry chefs. The masons in the UK planned to do a PR blitz when the Home Affairs Committee told their members in the police, judiciary, parliament, &c. that it would be a good idea if they declared their membership, if only to allay suspicion, but then members in the police refused (and promptly founded a special new lodge for policemen, if I remember rightly), which just made everyone think they were even more dodgy.
posted by jack_mo at 4:57 PM on October 11, 2008


I think maybe it has something to do with how obsessed Americans are with joining clubs and societies while we British are fundamentally misanthropic; hanging out with a bunch of other guys in a special hall would seem kinda weird in Britain

Yes, if there's three things I think of when it comes to British social structures, it's inclusivity, an aversion to hierarchies, and decided non-weirdness.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 5:42 PM on October 11, 2008 [9 favorites]


here they're just a bunch of dudes who get together to socialize and do a bit of necromancy wear funny hats and drive tiny cars.

(When I was a child, my grandmother told me that if I was bad the Masons would get me. Seriously.)
posted by octobersurprise at 7:55 PM on October 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


Where is your lodge?

Whoops, missed this the first time.

Gray Lodge #329 is at 2370 Barker Oaks Drive - the intersection of Highway 6 and Westheimer, behind the Best Buy. It's literally "right down the road"; five miles from work or seven miles from home.
posted by mrbill at 8:20 PM on October 11, 2008


while we British are fundamentally misanthropic; hanging out with a bunch of other guys in a special hall would seem kinda weird in Britain even if they weren't conducting ceremonies with skulls, corrupting the police force, and in various other ways providing plotlines for episodes of Inspector Morse.

I dunno, your expression of the British experience doesn't seem to agree with either my understanding of the UK or masonry. The ultimate origins of masonry are lost to antiquity, but for its purposes as an official body Masonry was founded in the UK and most masonic lodges keep their ritual according to what was done by the United Grand Lodge of England circa 1717 -- a custom maintained in most of Canada and the old British Empire (except the USA, which always has to do some thing different). It would be pretty strange for the UK to found, and spread a movement to its colonies that was at odds with its national character. Usually, London is considered the most masonic city in the world, and most Shrine groups have a pipe band, the connection is undeniable. In fact, my masonic lodge is the only place I ever hear "God Save the Queen" played/sung in Canada anymore. Tony Blair's push to make police/officials who hold masonic memberships submit to some kind of public registry suggests a critical mass you are perhaps unaware of.

Congrats to Mr Bill. Your story leads me to recall a more interesting time on my masonic path, these days I am largely inactive.
posted by Deep Dish at 1:08 AM on October 12, 2008


Yeah I was sort of joking about the fundamental misanthropy. But I think the de Tocqueville point is a good one.

Tony Blair's push to make police/officials who hold masonic memberships submit to some kind of public registry suggests a critical mass you are perhaps unaware of.

No, it reflects the fact that it's a very widespread opinion in Britain that the Masons are a secretive, problematic and potentially corrupting underground force in the public life of the UK. To be such, it would have to not be a mass-membership, lovely community organization that was well integrated into the broader society, and that most people felt benignly about. I can't give you more than anecdotal evidence, but believe me this positive view is not how most people in Britain think of the Masons.

(Obviously, a) this widely held opinion may be totally paranoid and unjustified and b) even if it's not, it's no reflection whatsoever on the experiences of mrbill and mattbucher; I can't comment on those!)
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 11:56 AM on October 12, 2008


I better not see an AskMe from either you or matt in the near future about the best way to borrow the Declaration of Independence. I will flag that.
posted by allkindsoftime at 1:32 PM on October 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


It seems so strange to me how jolly MetaFilter is about Freemasonry. Is it that the organisation itself is very different in the US, or that the public perception of the organisation is different?

I have two words to help explain why I personally love them (at least the local ones down the road): Pancake Jamboree.
posted by odinsdream at 10:05 AM on October 13, 2008 [3 favorites]


'if you're a policeman, judge or magistrate and a mason, you need to declare it so we can make sure you're not corrupting the justice system' way.

Here, Opus Dei is that.
posted by gjc at 6:26 AM on October 15, 2008


'if you're a policeman, judge or magistrate and a mason, you need to declare it so we can make sure you're not corrupting the justice system' way.

Listen man, the lodge has been completely infiltrated by anti-masons and every word of masonic ritual is available on a google search. If you think that gobbly-gook you can find on google or an organization in which most branches meet about 8 times a year is capable of that kind of influencing anything, your powers of imagination are truly impressive. In my lodge, I can't influence the bartender to stock decent beer.
posted by Deep Dish at 11:06 PM on October 20, 2008


It's not my powers of imagination. Masons in the UK in various public roles are required to declare their membership of the organisation, and they are - or have been until very recently - guilty of corruption. Masons in the armed forces are not allowed to meet or recruit members on Ministry of Defence premises, members of the General Medical Council must declare membership after suspicion that mason doctors weren't being struck off when they should be, the Grand Lodge were forced by Parliamentary order to reveal details of mason members of the West Midlands Serious Crimes Squad (the spectacularly corrupt unit who fitted up the Birmingham Six), when parliament requested that masons in the police sign a voluntary register, most refused, and 300 officers promptly set up a new police-only lodge and pointedly failed to sign the register, &c. &c..

One example of corruption, which helps explain why masons are viewed with suspicion in the UK: when the gangster Kenneth Noye was being investigated it turned out (that's a link to a broadsheet paper, not a kooky conspiracy site) he was master of the Hammersmith Lodge, that senior police officers from that lodge had repeatedly helped him avoid previous prosecution, and the policemen investigating his case were given round-the-clock protection from their own colleagues!

If MetaFilter masons say the organisation in the US is a social club with some cool ceremonies, I absolutely don't doubt them and hope they have a great time hanging out at their lodges, but over here it is widely seen as a dodgy outfit, because it really has been involved in very serious corruption.
posted by jack_mo at 3:25 AM on October 21, 2008


If MetaFilter masons say the organisation in the US is a social club with some cool ceremonies, I absolutely don't doubt them and hope they have a great time hanging out at their lodges, but over here it is widely seen as a dodgy outfit, because it really has been involved in very serious corruption.

I think portraying masons as just a swell bunch of guys is just as disengenous as your position - masonry is a spiritual and social organization, where the guys take some on some very serious responsibility to their community and to each other but I will fight that battle elsewhere.

If you checked one of those anti-masonic sites which publish our ritual it pretty much flat out defines our code of ethics - conspiracy, law breaking, revolutions...etc... expressedly forbidden - political discussion is not even allowed. I suppose you could counter that by saying I am just covering up secrets or willing to lie for other masons; its really hard to disprove the negative, and I can't prove to you that I am not interested in those things - so I will try to appeal to logic:

Even if every mason was willing to cover every other masons' ass you seem to have ignored the point that the lodges are fully infiltrated. If our ritual is fully published on the Internet what makes you think the other content of the meetings secret? Half the room is sending text messages from cell phones during the meetings... my local groups' web site has one log on and password... what makes you think masonry could maintain this level of secrecy? Paranoia, ignorance and alarmist nanny-statery in the UK come to my mind. Satellites in space can take pictures accurate enough to zoom in on a car's tags, but you think masonry can keep their illicit activity quiet?

I might add that people leave the order on a regular basis, what do you think would motivate them to keep quiet? Do you think a mason under investigation for some crime wouldn't gladly give up masonic conspiracies in exchange for other favours? Have you ever seen the movie Donnie Brasco? That guy is still alive, do you think someone betraying masonry would have a worse fate, given most masons are quiet, boring and middle class?

That said, the largest fraternity in the world is going to have a few bad members - I would not be suprised if there are masons you don't like, or are corrupt. Hell there are masons, I don't like - but most times if you show me a person who is going to paint the whole order (or a large part of the order) as sleazy and corrupt - I will show you an anti-semite, racist, all around hater or a head-in-the-clouds dreamer who makes life more interesting by trying to reinvent the Da Vinci code. The only masonic crimes I have seen commited are violations of the indoor smoking ban.
posted by Deep Dish at 2:52 PM on October 21, 2008


Er, at no point did I paint a picture of masons as some sort of global megaconspiracy capable of evading the beady eye of espionage satellites. They're obviously not.

I'm just pointing out that there are several well documented examples of really serious corruption by masons (or members of specific masonic lodges, to put it more fairly) in the UK in recent years, and that is why people in the UK tend to think the group is a bit iffy. I don't even have a 'position' here, other than being mildly interested in the different public perceptions of the group in the US and the UK. and wanting to explain why that might be when you misunderstood one of my earlier comments. (In the interests of full disclosure, I should admit that I very much enjoyed Cremaster 3.)

Vaguely implying that this makes me an anti-semite, racist, blah blah blah is just fucking ridiculous.
posted by jack_mo at 4:11 PM on October 21, 2008


I don't even have a 'position' here, other than being mildly interested in the different public perceptions of the group in the US and the UK. and wanting to explain why that might be when you misunderstood one of my earlier comments

Fair enough. This issue actually has a long but easy answer. Masonry was founded in the UK, and spread to other countries. As you know, Masonry involves a lot of ritual and oath, and prayers which are not said to any specific god. Early masons believed things like the Earth revolved around the Sun and in the 18th century this was considered an un-Christian belief and the science was fully accepted. So naturally masonry was viewed as a little shady, since the Age of the Enlightenment had not fully taken root with everyday people.

Years pass, the Age of Reason and the Age Englightenment grow and spread. Tensions between Masons and Christians largely subside and throughout the Commonwealth and England, the reputation of masonry improves as people like the Royal Family get involved. Masons are still the subject of considerable distrust in Catholic circles, but Britain and places like English-speaking Canada are mostly protestant countries - so this is not a huge problem for masons in Britain or Canada. Masons in Britain and Canada generally try to keep things quiet and the order largely goes unmolested and even thrives in military circles - so while masonry is generally considered somewhat untoward, it is associated with powerful people and has a big membership (consider that Britain and the Commonwealth are for many practical purposes one country well into the 20th century).

WW2 breaks out. The growth of the military means a growth in masonry. Hitler includes masons in the groups he imprisons and executes. General Franco is blackballed and refused membership when attempting to become a mason and lashes out at the group. Catholics still consider masons heretics, a belief strongly held in many areas. None of this is terribly important in the British Empire as masonry enjoys huge support in the Royal Family and the military. The group generally just keeps quiet, and tries to lay low when anti-masonic sentiment is high.

Americans masons still have several things working against them. The US is no longer a part of the British Empire and doing things a little differently. America's Puritan roots don't disappear, and masonry isn't associated with Royalty. American masons have problems conducting themselves around people like Sarah Pallin, and slowly and gradually American masons decide they need to do what Americans do best - marketing.

American masons start appearing in little cars in parades, sponsoring hospitals, and children's charities, and bringing circuses to towns. American masons evolve a charitable public-facing wing, so the public sees masonry as a force for good rather than a bunch of guys in suits, gathering quietly in their halls. These American masons are shriners...

The Shrine spreads, but is most visible in the US. Many masons still believe that the social and spiritual elements should drive the order, they keep quiet - the royal family is supplanted by further democracy, the fall of communism allows some old-world antagonisms to be vocalized again, anti-masonry begins to re-emerge and violence against masons resumes.
posted by Deep Dish at 6:26 PM on October 21, 2008


For those following at home, Stephen Knight's The Brotherhood provides some context here.
posted by mattbucher at 8:11 PM on October 21, 2008


Awesome. I love the evolution of discussion on MeFi.
posted by mrbill at 6:57 PM on October 22, 2008


I would also recommend Is It True What They Say About Freemasonry?, which is available to read online here.

John Robinson's A Pilgrim's Path is good; he wrote another book hypothesizing on the origins of Masonry, became somewhat of an authority on the subject, and finally joined the fraternity not long before he passed away.
posted by mrbill at 7:04 PM on October 22, 2008


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