The Everything Freemasons Book: Unlock The Secrets Of This Ancient And Mysterious Society, by John K. Young and Barb Karg
It is always fascinating to read the perspective of esoteric matters from others and to see whether the perspective is sympathetic or not. This book is written from the perspective of those who are friendly to the Freemasons (as is the case, apparently with the Dummies guide as well) and the result is an entertaining look at a lengthy and venerable organization in a way that discusses its popularity (especially in the past) as well as its international and national spread and that also deals with some of the issues as to what has caused problems with the organization in its dealings with others. Reputations for freethinking and revolutionary radicalism do not always sit well with the sort of careerist ambitions that have been more common at other times. This book even raises the cautious discussion that who the Masons have included and who they have failed to include have at various times been troublesome in bringing problems to the organization and harming both its secrecy at times (as in 1820’s New York) and the well-being of its members when it faced anti-government persecution as in Franco’s Spain.
This book is about 300 pages long or so and it is divided into 20 chapters. The authors begin with some discussion about what the reader will learn from this book, as well as a foreword and introduction. After that there is a discussion of the identity of the freemasons (1), history and hearsay (2), the birth of a fraternity (3), the great divide between the ancients and the moderns (4), as well as the first three degrees that make one a member (5). There is a discussion of the structure of the lodges (6), the Scottish and York rites (7), famous international masons (8), as well as the expansion around the globe (9) and famous American masons (10). There is a discussion of the relationship between masonry and religion (11), anti-masonry (12), demystifying (13) as well as symbolism (14), and a discussion of some pretty ridiculous conspiracy theories (15). After that the authors focus on the discovery of the truth (16), questions about fact and fiction (17) related to various questions, a whole chapter on Jack the Ripper (18), the fraternal family tree (19), and some look at the diversity of freemasons in culture (20), including the Prince Hall Masonry that was created for free blacks, after which the book ends with some suggestions for recommended reading (i), a glossary (ii), and an index.
By and large this book does not seek to provide everything that one may want to know, but it does give a reasonable discussion of the patterns of life for a secret organization and the sort of life it has had institutionally in the United States and around the world, varying greatly depending on place and time and with an evident interest in tying itself to larger interests in history and culture. It is perhaps unsurprising that so many people involved in creativity and technology would seek an organization that is tied to the creation of beautiful works in history, but it is remarkable that a tradition that once served the interests of building beautiful castles and cathedrals eventually came, once speculative masonry rather than acting masonry became predominant, to be at odds with the religious tradition that once benefited greatly from work. And it is striking that masons should be so strong in nations whose religious traditions were so little interested in the physical masonry buildings that had been built for centuries by skilled itinerant masons. Life is full of ironies, though, and I suppose that is an irony that will have to be solved by more knowledgeable people than I am.