The Secret Temple: Masons, Mysteries, And The Founding Of America, by Peter Levenda
There is one aspect of this book that doesn’t make a lot of sense, unfortunately. This is a work about the influence of various mystery traditions on the history of the United States and how it is that a society which views the right to privacy as sacrosanct has such a low tolerance for secrecy in government or secret societies. The author is not himself a member of the Masons or of any similar society, according to his own account, but he clearly is interested in such matters and seeks to write a fair-minded account of such matters while remaining an outsider and recognizing that there are aspects of mystery that are limited for those who are on the outside looking in. What is it that would make someone want to adopt an approach where they were deeply interested in a subject but had no interest in writing about it as an insider but wanted to remain a generally sympathetic outsider and student of such matters and keep things on that level. One wonders the reason why this is the case, and the book itself does not give too much of a hint, though perhaps other works by the author do.
This book is an average-sized work of about 200 pages long and it is divided into two parts and nine chapters. The book begins with acknowledgements and an introduction, and then discusses the Masons as being veiled in allegory (I), with chapters on the identity of the Masons (1), the prehistory of the organization in the ancient world (2), the connection with the Knights Templar (3), and the importance of sacred geometry (4). After that the author discusses the America beyond and some related tendencies (II). This leads the author to discuss the first rosicrucians in America who came with the pietists who had such problems in Europe with persecution (5), the new rites and ancient memories that resulted from the transposition of European esoteric thinking to America (6), the conspiracy of intriguing men that was involved in both sides of the American Revolution (7), the relationship between magic and Mormonism that demonstrated Mormons as a forgotten and irregular branch of the Masons given the stark similarity in traditions and esoteric interests between the two, even if it is not a similarity that has often been explored (8), and then the question of the relationship between Masons and other secret groups like the Skull and Bones that have elitist interests far beyond what the Masons have been involved with (9), after which there are conclusions, a discussion of Poe’s “A Cask Of Amontillado,” notes, a bibliography, and an index.
One of the strengths of this book is the way that the author takes a broad view of mystery as it relates to the American religious and social tradition and what that means. As someone who has more experience and reading with that sort of tradition than most people would think, this particular book presented an interesting challenge when it came to dealing with what defines mystery elements. There are a great many things that tie together such matters, and writers about America’s mystery tradition note that self-help books, laws of success, and interests in the mysteries of the ages and patterns and cycles of history that provide understanding to a chosen few all tend to be aspects of such religious beliefs. The author also finds it interesting to discuss the relevance of secrecy and privacy to our own times and the question as to what political perspectives and what religious content is related to such matters. It would make the most sense to discuss such matters from the inside rather than from the outside, unless the author wants to know as much as possible without getting entangled or involved.