Book Review: Freemasons For Dummies

Freemasons For Dummies:  by Christopher Hodapp

This book was actually recommended to me by an acquaintance of mine and as someone who takes book recommendations seriously I have to say that this was a very interesting and worthwhile book and one that seeks to deal with the reality of the Freemasons in as balanced and complete a manner as possible that does not require him to reveal any secrets that he has pledged not to reveal.  This book tends to walk a narrow line between the various approaches that people take to masonry.  He points out the social benefits of the masons as well as their history and the large number of related organizations, some of which, like the Grotto, I have at least some personal experience with.  This particular book gave me some ideas for research and further study that may prove to be fruitful and any book that gives me ideas for research is to be greatly appreciated.  The book’s fair-mindedness and solid research and knowledge focus as well as its well-explained nuance makes it a very good book in fulfilling its purpose.  The Dummies guides in general are pretty sound [1] and this book is definitely no exception to the generally high level to be found.

This book is five parts and nineteen chapters long covering a bit more than 350 pages of material.  The book begins with an introduction and four chapters that discuss what freemasonry is (I), including a survey of freemasonry and its rituals (1), a history of the organization (2), the philosophy of freemasonry (3), and the refusal to talk about politics and religion (4).  The author then looks at the mechanics of masonry (II), including how masons are organized (5), the ceremonies (6) and symbols (7) of masonry, and some myths and misconceptions about them (8).  The author then spends a considerable amount of time talking about the appendant bodies of masrony (III), including the large amount of groups that are associated with masonry (9), the York (10) and accepted Scottish rites (11), the Shriners (12), and the extended masonic family (13).  There is a discussion of freemasonry today and a look to the future (IV) that discusses its relevance (14), the future of masonry (15), and a discussion to those who want to become masons (16).  The last part of the book is the usual part of tens (V), which includes ten groups of amazing masons (17), ten amazing conspiracies (18), and ten cool masonic places (19), as well as appendices (VI) on the Regius manuscript (i), Anderson’s constitutions (ii), and information on finding a lodge (iii), as well as an index.

There are at least a few threads that make this book particularly worthwhile.  One of them is the author’s guarded optimism about the recovery of masonry based on the interest of contemporaries in the more research and esoteric aspects of the group rather than the social and political causes that may have been of interest in the immediate postwar period.  The author’s discussion of the extended Masonic family is also interesting, given that many people (myself included) have had interactions with different groups included, like Shriners in parades.  If the author has little tolerance for speculation about illuminati or conspiracies for world conquest, he is very interested in knowledge and the development of virtue and the exploration of the views that people have of secret societies involved in benevolent service and also some very quirky but powerful rituals.  And the author builds up enough goodwill that he can be believed when he talks about the power that certain ceremonies have, especially where he deals with his personal experience in the Scottish Rite.  Overall, this is a book that is easy to enjoy and that is something that can be celebrated.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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