By Michael Jarzabek
This article first appeared in the April 2020 issue of the Fraternal Revue magazine titled “Fight Club and Freemasonry.
I was born into a generation represented by the sex toy in Marla Singer’s apartment. My generation whimpered to the world, “Don’t worry… [we’ re]… not a threat to you.”
We were given a world sterilized of meaning. Castration is a common theme in mythology. One generation, usually the younger, removes the power of creation from their elders. It is a cycle that endlessly repeats. Our parents pre-emptively emasculated us.
For many of us, the irony was that we couldn’t possibly be a threat to our Fathers since we didn’t know them. The danger we posed was to our Mothers, the threat was that we would become our Fathers, that we would become their greatest fear. Motivated by that fear, they robbed us of our power by making us impotent.
We had to be protected from everything. We were kept in a perpetual childhood, kept from becoming men. We were raised on a literature of multi-color warning labels and blacked out album covers.
Freemasonry was no exception. The ritual had to be cleansed of anything that might be deemed offensive. Skulls are scary… get rid of them. Ancient penalties… also scary, take them out. There are no secrets.
This is the world that Palahniuk and Fincher illustrate. Fight Club is about purification. It’s about burning away the physical to reveal the spiritual. It’s about maturity. It’s about regaining our potential.
Edward Norton’s character in Fight Club gives up safety and security to find true meaning. We need to do the same thing as Masons. We need to stop playing it safe. I can’t even write this article without the fear of offending someone, not because of the editor, but because of my own internal critic. I can’t embrace true growth within the confines of the system. I can’t be completely honest with you as the reader or myself. I am an unreliable Narrator. “I am Jack’s inflamed sense of rejection.”
As Masons, we must find what was lost (our masculinity, our potency), but our Mommies and our wives can’t find it for us. Our masculinity is directly tied to our free-will.
Tyler Durden and Marla Singer are aspects of the Narrator’s self. They collectively represent his soul and his will, and her apartment is a type of womb. Remember Marla saying, “Prepare to evacuate soul” and beginning to countdown as Tyler arrives at her apartment.
The Narrator can’t find his manhood, but he/Tyler finds a replacement on Marla’s bedroom dresser. Marla becomes both his Mother and his lover as she assures us that this inauthentic replacement for our manhood is not a threat.
After this scene, Tyler and Marla escape the security of the womb, down a flight of winding stairs past a Corinthian pillar, the archetype of beauty. They leave behind the harmony of opposites. They descend into rebirth, otherness, and flesh. As they do, Marla can be heard saying, “She’s lost faith in herself. She’s a monster. She’s infectious human waste, good luck trying to save her.” Could this be the first of many physical deaths and rebirths in the movie?
Empowered by this stage of rebirth, he finally escapes the security of society. He quits his job after which he also descends a set of stairs saying as he reaches the bottom, “I’m enlightened.” He has found his masculinity, he has reclaimed his power, or at least, so he thinks. What he doesn’t realize is that it’s just one more flight on the stairs. It is only by annihilation of the self that he stops the downward cycle and can begin the long ascent. We never see that ascent. The movie ends in annihilation.
This may seem like a Masonic lesson, and it necessarily shares some of our symbols, but it isn’t. It speaks to the same needs; it uses some of the same tools, and it even hopes for a similar outcome, but Freemasonry is an accumulation of ancient knowledge, inspiring us to embrace the good.
Fight Club is a postmodernism epic. Postmodernism attempts to illustrate a lack of meaning and the absence of truth. If anything, it’s anti-masonic. The two philosophies are diametrically opposed. The Narrator is a libertine, madman, and fool all rolled up into one. In fact, ironically, the consumerism that the movie villainizes is a result of the damaging effect that postmodern philosophy has had on man’s soul.
That doesn’t mean that we can’t learn from this brilliant piece of cinema. On the contrary, we should. We should understand its message and truly contemplate it. Is that not what we came here to do?