The G-Men: Four Personalities You Need in Your Lodge (and Four You DON’T!)

The G-Men

“Why did you become a mason?”

This question gets a variety of answers, but most commonly candidates say “I want to be part of something bigger than myself.” That “something bigger” is a brotherhood with the will and the resources to get things done. But it’s not a static thing that either exists or doesn’t; it’s a process of participation and role fulfilment.

Fulfilling roles in group dynamics is not like casting brothers in a degree. People are who they are and taking an inventory of who you have will give you a great idea of the health of your lodge and who, if anyone is missing, you need to find.

Every successful lodge has four types of brothers: a Gambler, a Governor, a Go-Getter, and a Grunt. Some lodges have a lot of some and only a few (or one) of others. Some brothers are more than one type (keep those!), but the presence of all four personalities is how you get things done.

The Gambler

Gamblers are the guys who like rolling the dice on a new idea. A Gambler is a creative who typically has his pulse on what contemporary men want. He’s the one who brings the ideas that give the lodge and its ritual flavor, enriching the brotherly experience. Never content to flip pancakes or fry fish, he wants to try new events and fundraisers. Corn roasts? Nope. Comedic roasts? Yup! Murder mystery dinners and burlesque shows are the preferred events over the regular stuff that never gets anyone through the door. Lapel pin merit badges, and branded club scarves are where they want to go. 

Maybe an idea will work and maybe it won’t; either is fine. They just want to try something, pluck out the gems and discard the rest.

Getting the best out of a Gambler

If there are downsides to being a Gambler, it’s that they don’t sweat the details, and forget that their ideas require the efforts of other brothers to work. Give them the space to create, and provide them awareness of what resources and assets are available. When they’re suggesting an idea, they may have just thought of it. Now isn’t the time for No’s. They need the opportunity to develop an idea, and sometimes this is done in full view of everyone. Ask them questions, and phrase problems you have with an idea as a challenge to overcome and not a criticism.

Archenemy: The Grumbler

A Grumbler has never heard an idea he hasn’t found a way to dislike. They fear change and new paradigms because they can’t envision them or the possible end results. A Grumbler will immediately poke holes in a Gambler’s ideas. He won’t necessarily say it’s a bad idea, as they don’t want to be viewed as an obstacle to the lodge, but they act as a cooler, lowering the excitement for any new concept, and opposing it by planting doubts in the brethren’s minds. Grumblers make particularly deadly secretaries, as they will usually find a way to kill any idea they don’t like, behind the scenes.

The Governor

A Governor can usually, but not always, be found behind the secretary’s desk. He’s an organizer, not just of records and paperwork, but of people. He knows names and faces, and has learned, through necessity, who to call to get what job done. He’s a rules guy, and typically keeps the lodge safely tethered to the ground, but on the flip side he also knows how to successfully navigate the rules and regs to get something done where others might be immediately dejected.

A Governor doesn’t let obstacles stop forward momentum. If the new lodge website requires a program no one knows how to use, he’ll figure it out. If the repairman cancels, he knows a guy. A Governor digs into how systems function so they can work the systems.

Getting the best out of a Governor

It may sound like Governors make ideal lodge leaders, and in a sense, they do, especially when they have a streak of creativity, and have learned to listen. However, they thrive in a supporting role, acting as a cannon Gamblers can aim to get their projects realized. To get the most out of a Governor, they need a great working relationship with a Gambler, and the freedom from the master of the lodge to flip any switches they need to get something done. As they’re rules guys, they’re not going to cheat, but asking them how to get something done quickly will usually get a productive answer. In fact, the best way to relate to them is to ask questions, but only the ones you can’t answer for yourself. Governors hate doing the same job twice without good reason.

Archenemy: The Gadfly

Gadflies love challenging authority or the status quo, and this means they are sometimes mistaken for Gamblers, but that’s a superficial similarity. Unlike Gamblers, Gadflies have no ideas or solutions of their own. They chip away at lodge projects not because they fear change, but because they want to be seen as smart or useful. It’s not necessarily a bad thing to have someone who can show all the ways a project can fail, but that is where their utility ends.

The Go-Getter

If the lodge was a business, the Go-Getter would be the salesman. He’s a hype-man, generating excitement among other brothers. He’s often a natural traveler, visiting lodges frequently, and while he’s there, he’s happy to push his own lodge’s projects.

Go-Getters are optimistic, extroverted networkers. They can sometimes be off-putting and come across as egotistical attention-seekers. Some are. These negative traits don’t dampen the effectiveness of a Go-Getter; it makes them better at what they do. But most of the time what the quieter brethren are seeing is a guy who likes his energy reflected back at him. Nothing is more contagious than a good story, well told.

Getting the best out of a Go-Getter

Like Gamblers and Governors, Go-Getter need the space to do what they do best: bullshit. This isn’t a bad thing. Bullshitters can be extremely effective, because when they hype a person or idea, they’re not selling you on the person or idea, they’re selling you the feeling those generate in you. It’s certainly not unusual for a Go-Getter to write checks with his mouth that a Governor can’t cash, but that’s not important, because when the product is delivered, it will be exactly what the customer wanted, and the Go-Getter make sure the audience is convinced of that.  A word of warning though: do not outshine a Go-Getter! They like being the center of attention and that’s where they thrive. Stealing their spotlight will only get you a pouting brother.

Archenemy: The Grouse

Some brothers, due to some actual or perceived trauma they’ve experienced in their masonic career, will never pass up an opportunity to badmouth their lodge, their grand-lodge, or freemasonry in general. Often the only time they can be found complimenting something is when they’re using it as contrast to explain how something else (something you like) is actually bad. Grouses don’t care if a lodge project succeeds or fails. All they want is validation that they were unjustly victimized, and they will never move on.

The Grunt

Don’t let the name fool you into thinking these guys are the remainder when all the other roles are filled. Most masons don’t fit any of these categories. No, the Grunt is the master of git-er-done. If the Gambler is the marksman, and the Governor is the gun, the Grunt is the ammo. The Grunt doesn’t generate ideas or excitement; he reflects it back, feeding the Gamblers and Go-Getters. They’re the muscle that move the furniture and clean out the basement to make room for a new gym set. They’re the ones who sell the tickets or at least bring their family to the fundraiser. They man the booths. When someone says “I just met a guy from that masonic lodge. He seemed like a really good guy,” they’ve probably just met a Grunt.

Grunts can be verbal and expressive, but this is no requirement of their position. They express their enthusiasm through a certain stoic dedication to showing up. They don’t need to be strong, or otherwise physically fit, nor particularly skilled. They truly come to be a part of something bigger.

Getting the best out of a Grunt

Grunts are fueled by feelings. They may or may not know what a Gambler is talking about, but they like his energy. They respect the heck out of Governors for being the paperwork-versions of themselves, and they’re the ones to totally buy into the feelings that the Go-Getters are selling. Most of all, though, they are the ones who clearly see the point of a lodge and brotherhood. In some ways that makes them the best of any of the above, because they put service over self. The best way to get great effort out of a Grunt is to make sure they see that their efforts are an essential part of a functioning machine, not through praise, but through results. And never take advantage of their good natures! There are plenty of other organizations they could be helping and are probably members of quite a few of ‘em!

Arch-Enemy: The Goof-Off

Goof-Offs aren’t bad brothers to have around. They’re not just needed. They tend to be jovial and funny. They like entertaining others, like a Go-Getter, but all they’re selling is good times. And that’s perfectly fine at the right fellowship setting, but when they volunteer to help with a project, watch out. They’re not there to work, they’re there to distract. They’re the ones who will suggest knocking off after an hour and hitting the bar. They talk a supportive game, by saying that you’ve got a lot of good work done or cite some small hurdle that they’re convinced means you need to stop for the day. They’re just looking for friends. And that’s fine! But during a project is not a good time. There’s no beer that doesn’t taste like ambrosia after an actual hard day’s work, and that’s just not the Goof-Off’s thing.

You Need All Four

Why You Shouldn’t Be a Freemason

Note: This article was originally posted on Braden Lodge‘s website, but has been moved here by its author. It is presented here in its original form. An updated version has been incorporated into Welcome to the Brickyard.

Matt Gallagher

Freemasonry  is shrouded in a pop-culture mystique of danger and intrigue. Now I won’t comment on if any of those intrigues are true (hint), but one thing is for sure,  Freemasonry has gotten a reputation as an organization in decline. This is very much not true.

Freemasonry is growing almost everywhere in exciting ways. Lodges are bringing in young, vibrant members, eager to learn traditions and add their own modern perspective. What is true, however, is that Freemasonry, along with every other fraternal club, saw huge booms in the twentieth century, and those boom times are gone. Frankly, those boom times were probably not that great for Freemasonry. They drew the focus away from self-improvement and brotherhood, and into more publicly-focused areas. Rather than helping each other grow better, many used their brotherhood to help each other grow richer. Charity became an industry, rather than a personal offer of relief, and to the receiver an acceptance of responsibility.

When membership declined from these lofty heights, some Masonic lodges moved toward an any-and-all-comers view of membership. But Freemasonry is not for everyone. Sadly, it’s not even for most people. And joining a Masonic lodge when you shouldn’t isn’t good for you, or your lodge. Here’s why you shouldn’t join Freemasonry.

Are Angry People Actually “Angry People?”

Are you an angry person?

I’ve done my fair amount of shouting in my life. Yelling at the kids, snapping at the wife, shouting to the sky and cursing the gods. You know, the regular stuff. Everyone does it. Some people, usually guys, do it more than normal.

Psychologists tell us that men often process depression through anger, and that’s probably true, but why is that? And what can we do about it?

Well…I’m not sure. If I knew, I’d be doing it, right? But I had a weird thought to share. You’ve heard of the phrase “spectrum of emotion,” and that got be to think about light and color.

Why is a blue object blue?

Physics tells us that it’s not blue. In fact, blue is the one trait in the whole universe we know it doesn’t possess. Anything we see in our world is nothing more than light bouncing off the object and into our eyes. Light is composed of a spectrum of stuff, and one of those is color. When white light hits an object, it’s bombarded by red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet wavelengths. Objects either absorb or reflect these wavelengths. When they’re all reflected back to our eyes, the object appears white. When they’re all absorbed, the object appears black. And when, for instance, they’re all absorbed except for blue, and blue is reflected back at us, we see the object as blue.

But it’s not blue. It doesn’t absorb blue. It absorbed all the other colors within it. Those other color wavelengths are, in a sense, a part of the object. Except blue. Blue was rejected and expelled.

Does emotion work the same way?

What if, rather than color, we’re bombarded with emotional wavelengths? Happy, Sad, Angry, Envy, Disgust, etc. And most of us can absorb most of these wavelengths most of the time. We can absorb them, and process them. But some emotions we can’t all absorb. Some emotions we bounce back.

Is an angry person angry? Do they generate and radiate anger? Or can they just not absorb anger, so they end up rejecting it, and bouncing it back. Like the blue object, others would view them as an angry person. But in reality, angry might be the one thing they’re not, on the inside. They’re not built to process anger. It’s a foreign body and they reject it.

This could be a dumb idea. I’ve had a lot of those. But consider it. What if the person you think is an angry person isn’t angry. And the happy person isn’t happy. And the sad person isn’t sad. They just reflect instead of absorb. Maybe we should approach these people differently. And we can send them wavelengths they can absorb and process, rather than playing a game of Pong between you.

Just a thought.

What Are the Secretive, Mysterious Origins of Freemasonry?

…I don’t know.

But to be fair to me, neither does anyone else.

There are very few records of our beginnings. Freemasonry either started in ancient Egypt, the Crusades, Middle Age Europe, or the exact date of the founding of the United Grand Lodge of England, depending on how tight or loose you play with the facts.

If we just go by authenticated records, it seems like it started in the Middle Ages when the operative masonry guilds, the ones who actually built the cathedrals, castles, and shithouses of Europe, let non-masons sit in on their meetings, and then eventually let them (or at least didn’t stop them) from branching off into their own speculative form.

And to this I say bullshit.

Whenever I think of any old timey people doing weird things, like freemasonry, or alchemy, or religion, I do my best to try to put myself in their shoes and remember three inviolable truths:

  • Different people are different
  • Different times were different
  • People are all essentially the same

People are a unique product of their genetics and experiences, which are necessarily different than mine. Also, people adapt to the zeitgeist of their times. But, we all have the same deeply-rooted motivations.

The fact is that up until very recently, probably 99% of humanity spent probably 99% of their time trying to not die. Even the rich and the powerful had their own, more expensive problems in this regard. As this occupation left very little time for extracurricular activities, that means that anyone spending any of their time doing something weird had to have a very important, very convincing reason to do it.

So when we ask “Was alchemy about self-improvement or was it about making magic rocks and gold?” We have to apply a dose of realism, and say that it was a mix. Probably people thought it could make them rich, and the ones who stumbled upon useful medicines and chemicals probably did get rich, and the ones who didn’t could at least claim they got something out of the process.

So I ask myself what motivation would a medieval trade guild have for letting outsiders sit in on their meetings and giving them their secrets?

Operative masonry existed in a wholly different world than the one in which we live. Kids didn’t go to school. They were essentially pawned off as apprentices, and some at a very young age. If you’re the architect and foreman of a worksite, the last thing you need are a bunch of dumb kids, and rash adults starting fights, sleeping with each other’s wives, and cutting corners to make a buck, so it’s perfectly believable that in these operative lodges they would talk time not just to teach their trade, but to educate their apprentices, and to give their workers solid expectations and codes of conduct to live by, and if these things can be taught with a religious flavor and a touch of sacredness, then all the better. And it’s natural that they would use their own tools as analogies to teach obscure moral concepts.

This would be very interesting, and appealing, to any onlookers. But why would there be onlookers? Ask yourself, did operative trade guilds use secret passwords?

Probably, yeah. If you’re walking from Scotland to England, and hop over the Channel to France, then off to Germany and Italy, until you bump into the Ottoman Empire, you’re going to try making a living at every stop in between. How do you prove to the local builders that you know what you’re doing?

Sure, you could give them a demonstration. It probably wouldn’t take long for a master to figure out if you’re competent. But just because you can cut and carve, does that mean you can build an arch? Or raise a vaulted ceiling? Or design a cathedral? No one’s checking your medieval LinkedIn page. There’s no Castle H.R. checking on your references. But if you knew the pass, which you could only have gotten by demonstrating your proficiency before regular lodge of master masons, that’s as good as gold.

Could you have wrestled the password out of a mason you waylaid on the road? Possibly, but such a thing would be so connected to your personal and professional honor some would surely have died to protect it. And those who wouldn’t have were probably safe enough anyway, because it would only be of use to someone who was already a working mason, and I’d imagine (and it doesn’t take much imagination) that the punishment for anyone who got caught imitating a master mason, a cowan, for instance, would be dire indeed.

The last thing any trade guild would do is give away their literal trade secrets to the unskilled. It would defeat the entire point of them.

So where DID it come from?

I can think of exactly one likely scenario.

In a world before workers comp, a mason having his hand or his leg crushed by a stone was probably not a rare occurrence. Nor was probably a craftsman being conscripted and injured in a war he wanted nothing to do with. That probably left a lot of masons with a lot of time on their hands, and a lot of education in their brain. No doubt whatever passwords guilds used would be changed from time to time, and they’d have no way to get new ones, so that’s not a big concern anymore. In such a scenario I could easily see these retired masons sucked into tavern conversations with other local philosophers, religious-minded folk, students, and even alchemists, and finding they had something in common, would share information.

If you’re one of a few retired stonemasons in town, and your family has all died of the Black Death, it would be very appealing to “get the band back together” so to speak, and start a “lodge” of masons solely because you miss the camaraderie. You invite some of the guys from the pub, because you think they’d be into it, and maybe you even agree to take in some of the local kids who couldn’t secure apprenticeships for one reason or another. They could learn the basics of a trade, a little philosophy, a little practical education from the kooky alchemist. Maybe you give them some “secret passwords” so they feel a part of something bigger. You like it. It gives you something to do. It gives your post-employment life a little meaning. And it just sort of…catches on.

As people scatter, from town to town, the philosophers enjoy the brotherhood they could never get because they probably never went to war, and the masons get a purpose again.

Is any of this true? Did any of this happen? Almost certainly not. It’s all speculation. I have no idea how speculative freemasonry started.

And yet, it almost has to be true, doesn’t it? Because isn’t that how things happen? Little things, done for little reasons sometimes become contagious, and become big things done for big reasons. Freemasonry was, and is, a meme. A unit of culture, as Richard Dawkins put it, that caught on.

Are You a Practicing Freemason?

On September 1, 2019 we are launching The Practicing Freemason, a newsletter of lodge instruction, talking points, and other exercises of Self-Craft. For as little as $1 per month, you can be a hero at your lodge, and bring in a stack of printed copies for your brothers, or just enjoy it all for yourself!

Each issue comes with:

  • A Ready-to-Read lecture of relevant, practical freemasonry.
  • Discussion prompts for your own philosophical talks over coffee.
  • Book-of-the-month recommendations.
  • Innovative lodge ideas to stimulate enthusiasm.

It kinda looks like this!

Want more? Subscribe via Patreon Membership!

Freemasonry is Dying… That’s a Good Thing

Dang zombie masons…

Freemasonry is in a membership crisis. Let’s face it. The Craft is dying. Literally. From 2016 to 2017, Masonic numbers dwindled a net 40,928 members to hit an all-time low in the last century, according to data compiled from the Masonic Service Association of North America. That’s up from 40,433 members the Craft bled in the year prior. And if the rest of North America is anything like my state, 55.4% of those loses are due to death.

Good.

That’s what I say.

Because I don’t want the dead in my fraternity, dabgummit! The dead make the worst masons! They NEVER show up to meetings. They NEVER pay their dues, not even their lifetime memberships anymore! When the Worshipful Master asks for volunteers for a charity event, do you know who’s the first ones to raise their hands? Alive people. And who’s nowhere to be found? That’s right. The dead.

I’ve never seen a dead mason show up at a building clean up day. I’ve never seen a dead mason do quality ritual work. I’ve never even seen a dead mason sit in an officer’s chair!

…I mean, I thought I saw it this one time, but it turned out the Tyler was just napping.

We don’t like to talk about it, but I’m just going to come out and say it.

THE DEAD MAKE TERRIBLE FREEMASONS!

And thank the Great Architect of the Universe that every grand lodge in North America agrees with me! Because you know what the first thing we do the moment we find out one of our brothers is dead? We revoke their membership!

That’s awesome.

I’ve heard my grand lodge say “Once a Mason, always a Mason” and yeah, that sounds good. And if they found out that a brother was an Atheist, or had transitioned from a woman, or transitioned to a woman, or maybe even was secretly a woman the whole time, they don’t do anything about it, because they’ve already been made a mason. And that’s great. I’m tolerant. I’m open-minded. But once a brother shows up to lodge dead? We strike ’em right off the books!

In fact, I’d like to make a modest proposal right now. I think we need to check every new petitioner–no, every current mason, and before each meeting–for a pulse!

We can’t have them here! You know the old saying: DEADS UNDER THE BED! And we’ve got to weed them out!

And here’s the best part! Since you apparently have to be alive to be a mason, I say that any “brother” who commits that immoral, unforgivable sin of dying should have their status as a mason retroactively revoked!!! Which means that in 2017 we only lost about 22,500 masons! This one idea just cut our membership problems by 55%!

No, Of Course I’m Not Serious

But it’s strange, isn’t it? Because isn’t this effectively how we act? We say things like “My grandfather was a mason,” like he somehow stopped being one when he passed on. Our membership numbers look so dire, in great part, because people die.

But people are supposed to die. That’s the high cost of living.

Freemasonry is accepting of pretty much all creator-based beliefs, so this might be too blankety of a statement, but can’t it be said that all our rituals, all our ideas, and standards, and practices, and traditions, are for the purpose of preparing oneself to die? And to assure one’s place into whatever hereafter they belong?

Some people forget that Dante’s Inferno has two sequels: Purgatorio, and Paradiso. Dante transverses thirty levels from the ice prison of Satan up to the throne of God. Each level represents a vice which needs to be suppressed or a virtue which needs to be attained. In Freemasonry, we attempt to impart upon your mind as many practiced virtues, and eliminate as many vices as possible so when you die, you hit as high a level as you can, commiserate to whatever faith you follow. And, like in the Divine Comedy, you continue your journey, onward and upward.

To a mason, death is a feature, not a bug.

In a purely rhetorical world, I would love if we never crossed a deceased brother off our books, but rather only marked him as affiliated with the Eternal Lodge, and in that way our membership would never go down as long as there was a single brother passing along the secrets. But we don’t live in this world, and we have to know our trajectories.

But don’t panic. Masonry isn’t dying. People die. That’s okay. And there’s nothing masons can, or should, do to stop it. So let’s stop worrying. Let’s just focus on doing good works, and keep our eyes on our lodge brothers. Freemasonry grows when genuine men are excited by great experiences.

Freemasonry: 10 Signs You’re Doing It Wrong

We all love to think we’re worth this institution, and we’re doing things more or less correctly, but are we?

You could have Grand in front of every title in the Craft you’ve earned, and yet your day to day fraternal interactions could be poisoning your lodge and brothers, bit by bit, because success isn’t a goal that is reached, g but a trajectory that is either going up or down.

Here are 10 signs that you might be contributing to a downward trajectory.

“Wow, you’ve got a lot of passion for the Craft.”

A couple months ago I was reflecting on what kind of a mason I was when I first joined. Lemme tell ya, it wasn’t top tier.

Oh, I came to all the meetings. I learned the lectures and the rituals. I was a smart mason. Too smart. Too smart for my own good, because like many young men I lacked a principle quality for success: humility.

“But I’ll say this for him. He was a man of his word.”

In Freemasonry and its related bodies we tell a lot of stories with a purpose. Ask any copy of Joseph Campbell’s Hero With a Thousand Faces and it’ll tell you that stories are how humanity learns character. Good character, ideally, but we also learn from those who have bad character.

One particular story features an antagonist with a particularly bad character. And in what I suppose would be the complicating incident of the tale he utters something to the effect of “that which I say, I will do.”