Summaries + Reviews
The Masonic books noted on this page do not represent an exhaustive list of recommended Masonic writings.
Many of these book may be found in the lodge library. All are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Masonic retail outlets and websites.
No single book offers all there is to study and learn about Freemasonry. Each, however, does offer wholesome instruction, commentary and perspectives of many who are considered Masonic scholars, well-known practitioners, and Masonic historians.
The Freemasons: Unlocking The 1000-Year-Old Mysteries of The Brotherhood: The Masonic Rituals, Codes, Signs and Symbols Explained With Over 200 Photographs And Illustrations
By Jeremy Harwood
This timely book begins with the history and legends of the Freemasons, from its medieval origins, through the age of Enlightenment and the Founding Fathers of the USA, to the Victorians and up to the present day. The importance of three-dimensional symbolism, Solomon's Temple, Egyptian influences, Classical architecture and the Lodge are all explored and illustrated with fabulous fine art images.
Is it True What They Say about Freemasonry?
By Arturo de Hoyos , Brent S. Morris
For as long as there have been Freemasons, there has been a calculated effort to disparage and discredit them as well as their practices. But why does this incessant attack exist, and where does it originate from? In this insightful text, masons Arturo de Hoyos and S. Brent Morris explore the origins of the anti-Masonic mind-set and delve into the falsehoods on which critics have based these perennial sentiments. Confronting opponents one at a time, the authors methodically debunk the myths that have surrounded Freemasonry since its establishment, investigating the motives and misconceptions that drive these antagonists to spread deceit about Masonic traditions. With close readings and thorough research, they uncover a history of fallacies that have been handed down through the generations, and ultimately expose anti-Masonic prejudices that reach almost three hundred years into the past.
The Rossyln Hoax? Viewing the Rosslyn Chapel from a New Perspective
By Robert L.D. Cooper
Since the publication of the "Da Vinci Code", non-Masons have been asking questions and putting forward theories about Freemasonry, especially Freemasonry in Scotland and its alleged connections with the Knights Templar and Rosslyn Chapel. This book is a product of the research undertaken to answer those questions. The results will surprise a lot of people.
Reviewed by Christopher Hodapp:
Much has been written over the years about Rosslyn Chapel and its connection with Scottish Freemasonry, as well the St.Clair family, the Knights Templar and a variety of 'lost treasures'. The author looks in depth at the validity of the published material and the legends associated with the Rosslyn Chapel exposing major differences between Scottish Freemasons' view of their history and heritage and that described by those who are not Freemasons.
Robert L. D. Cooper's book "The Rosslyn Hoax" is perhaps the most important book yet published about Rosslyn Chapel, the Templars, Scotland and the Freemasons. What makes it so important is that he actually has physically investigated the many claims made about the enigmatic little church over the centuries, especially in the last few decades. He has laid his eye on so many artifacts described by others, and tracked them to their likely, provable meanings or sources. And he has traced the origins of so many legendary claims to their originators, instead of parroting the work of other "speculators."
I say it's an important book. I didn't say it will make everyone happy. And the reason why is because he slaughters an entire herd of sacred cattle with his investigations of the many claims of Templar involvement in Freemasonry's formation and the building of Rosslyn. Or to put it another way, if you believe Born in Blood: The Lost Secrets of Freemasonry, The Temple and the Lodge, and Rosslyn: Guardian of the Secrets of the Holy Grail to be the truth, Robert Cooper is your blasphemer.
Cooper is the curator of the Grand Lodge of Scotland's library and museum, which possesses much original material that other authors have written about, but never actually gone to look at and study in person. Moreover, Cooper takes claims of Templar sites, burial markers and supposed influence and subjects them to the historical record or compares them to provable, authentic Templar sites. Most important of all, he places the origins of the original claims made (often by 17th and 18th century Scottish Masons) into their proper historical and social context, exploring just why Scottish Freemasons might have desired an older, more glorious heritage for their fraternity than those uppity English Masons down in London who were claiming it as their own. Cooper makes an outstanding case for forgeries, Victorian alterations and a lot of wishful thinking.
Certainly there is a place for mythology in this world, and it would be a pretty barren life indeed if we didn't have our share of story tellers who, with a gleam in their eye and a wink to the knowing, began by speaking the words, "Once upon a time..." Freemasonry is no different. Just as long as we understand what is myth and what is history, and the difference between them.
As I said, if you believe the Knights Templars saved the day at Bannockburn, built Rosslyn Chapel, and then morphed into the Freemasons, you should undoubtedly already be collecting logs and kindling for Robert Cooper's pyre. But if you are a seeker of the truth behind this curious and beautiful place, start with The Rosslyn Hoax.
The Secret History of Freemasonry: Its Origins and Connection to the Knights Templar
By Paul Nauden
Explores the hidden history of Freemasonry from ancient Rome, through the Middle Ages, to the present.
- Shows the close connection between medieval masons and the Knights Templar
- Illustrates the sacred nature of Roman and medieval trade associations
- Reveals the missing link that connects the lodges of modern Freemasonry to the medieval brotherhoods of builders
Historians often make a sharp distinction between the operative Masonry of the Middle Ages and the speculative Masonry of modern times, emphasizing that there is no direct bridge connecting the two. Modern historians also have scoffed at Masonic claims concerning the close relationship between the Lodge and the Temple. Using medieval archives housed throughout Europe, historian Paul Naudon reveals that there was in fact a very intimate connection between the Masons and the Knights Templar. Church records of medieval Paris show that most, if not all, the Masons of that time were residents of the Templar Censive, which allowed them to enjoy great exemptions and liberties from both church and state as a result of the protection afforded them by this powerful order.
Naudon shows that the origins of Freemasonry can be traced back to the collegia of ancient Rome. He traces the evolution of organizations such as the Comacine Masters, the Arab turuqs, and the brotherhoods of builders created under the aegis of the Benedictines and the Knights Templar, all of which provide the vehicle for the transmission of a sacred tradition from pre-Christian times to the modern era. The author contends this tradition is the source of Masonic ritual and symbolism, and it provides the missing link in the transformation of the operative Masonry of the medieval cathedral builders to the spiritual principles of modern speculative Masonry.
Cracking the Freemason’s Code
By Robert L.D. Cooper
Prompted by mounting public interest and provoked by controversial stories on the Freemason Society, respected historian and Scottish Freemason Robert L.D. Cooper offers a rare inside look at this secret brotherhood. As curator of the Scottish Masonic Museum and Library, the author has unparalleled access to material dictating the history and function of the Masons.
In Cracking the Freemasons Code Cooper explains the structure of the Masonic interculture, its connections to covert organizations, the identities of historical Masonic members (who include George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle), the locations of famous Masonic sites, and much more.
Readers will discover the true role Freemasonry has played throughout history, its purposes, the functions of its many members, and the way in which it has helped shape our modern society. Laying out the symbolism, beliefs, and ethos of a Mason, Cooper addresses the considerable amounts of controversy surrounding those practices. His book includes never-before- published images and seldom-seen documents to give readers a privileged view of this elect brotherhood.
By Mark Tabbert
With over four million members worldwide, and two million in the U.S., Freemasonry is the largest fraternal organization in the world. Published in conjunction with the National Heritage Museum, this extravagantly illustrated volume offers an overview of Freemasonry's origins in seventeenth-century Scotland and England before exploring its evolving role in American history, from the Revolution through the labor and civil rights movements, and into the twenty-first century.
American Freemasons explores some of the causes for the rise and fall of membership in the fraternity and why it has attracted men in such large numbers for centuries.
American Freemasons is the perfect introduction to understanding a society that, while shrouded in mystery, has played an integral role in the lives and communities of millions of Americans.
The Better Nature of Our Angels: Freemasonry in the American Civil War
By Mike Halleran
One of the enduring yet little examined themes in Civil War lore is the widespread belief that on the field of battle and afterward, members of Masonic lodges would give aid and comfort to wounded or captured enemy Masons, often at great personal sacrifice and danger. This work is a deeply researched examination of the recorded, practical effects of Freemasonry among Civil War participants on both sides.
From first-person accounts culled from regimental histories, diaries, and letters, Michael A. Halleran has constructed an overview of 19th-century American freemasonry in general and Masonry in the armies of both North and South in particular, and provided telling examples of how Masonic brotherhood worked in practice. Halleran details the response of the fraternity to the crisis of secession and war, and examines acts of assistance to enemies on the battlefield and in POW camps.
The author examines carefully the major Masonic stories from the Civil War, in particular the myth that Confederate Lewis A. Armistead made the Masonic sign of distress as he lay dying at the high-water mark of Pickett’s charge at Gettysburg.
By Christopher Hodapp
Did The Freemasons Create The United States Of America?
Step back in time to the birth of a revolutionary new republic and discover how the utopian ideals of a visionary secret society laid the foundation for the most powerful nation on earth. Follow George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock and other Founding Fathers as they transform the democratic principles of their Masonic lodges into a radical new nation.
Solomon's Builders unravels history from myth as it takes you on a Freemason's tour of Washington, D.C. It reveals the evidence of Masonic influence during the construction of America and its new capital, including clues hidden in plain sight:
- Masonic connections to national monuments
- Puzzling pentagrams and symbolism in city streets
- Washington's temples of the "Widow's Sons"
Solomon's Builders relates the true stories of our visionary Founders, and the fascinating meaning behind the cryptic codes, enigmatic symbols and intriguing architecture that was the basis for the sequel to The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown's novel The Lost Symbol.
Observing the Craft
By Andrew Hammer
Written by Andrew Hammer, Master of one of the world's most historic Masonic lodges (Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22), Observing the Craft is a manifesto of sorts for the observant Mason, who seeks quality over quantity in every aspect of Freemasonry. It is a stringent argument for the Symbolic Lodge as being the whole of Masonry, calling for nothing but the utmost effort and commitment to be put into the operation of a Masonic lodge and its meetings.
Reviewed by Chris Murphy, An Attainable Vision for Excellence, 2011
There are many books about the history of Freemasonry, but Observing the Craft, by W.'. Andrew Hammer falls within the much rarer category of books about the future of our Ancient Institution. Bro.'. Hammer explicitly affirms Masonry's role as "a philosophical society", a sacred initiatic process focused on the internal and diligent labor of each Brother of attaining personal perfection. He points to the loss of this focus as the cause of the Craft's falling numbers and its inability to provide a truly enlightening experience for our contemporary Brethren.
Bro.'. Hammer does not mince words; the first chapter states, "[If ] for you Masonry is about simple brotherhood, good times and philanthropy, and should not be bothered with contemplating anything beyond what can be easily and completely understood by all... you have gone through all of Masonry in as much darkness as when you started... And this is the greatest danger facing the Craft today."
What Bro.'. Hammer does do, however, is to remind each of us that our Fraternity is a labor of which we are all blessed and privileged to be a part, and one that should be protected from lazy members and unworthy potential members. He advises that every attempt to make our Order more appealing to the profane world, every time we advance a man through the Degrees prior to him demonstrating that he has committed his mind and energies to self-improvement, every time we engage in any activity that diminishes the sacred confines of our Lodge room, we are doing a disservice to ourselves and abdicating the responsibility we adopted upon being Raised as Master Masons.
This book is not some tough-love pap; it is not a series of lectures telling contemporary Freemasons what they have done wrong. Instead, as the book states that Masonry "demands of its members the highest standards in all areas of its labours", Observing the Craft spells out a clearly defined series of steps wherein a Lodge can maintain "the insistence on observing and maintaining those standards." From Investigations, to Candidate preparation, to decorum within the Lodge room, to striving for excellence in Ritual, to sensory stimulation, to the Festive Board, Bro.'. Hammer's work provides an attainable vision of how to surpass the limitations of the common man in order to meet the mandate for excellence implicit in Freemasonry. There is no room for laziness, nor is there berth given to Brothers who make excuses for sloppy Masonry. Instead, this book provides inspiration to the youngest Master Mason and the most seasoned Grand Lodge Officer alike, on how we as a Brotherhood can--and indeed, should--utilize the principles of Masonry to elevate man from his station in life, and usher in true and enduring Light.
There are elements of Bro.'. Hammer's book that are likely to cause offense. But with each potential affront comes nuanced and well-reasoned arguments why none of us who would call ourselves Masons should do anything but strive for excellence in our Masonic labors.
Observing the Craft is the single most important book on contemporary Masonry that this Brother has ever had the pleasure to read.
Tracing Boards of the Three Degrees in Craft Freemasonry Explained
By Julian Rees
Although all Freemasons will be familiar with the Tracing Boards - painted or printed boards developed in the early years of Freemasonry which are used in Lodges to illustrate Masonic symbols during lectures - little has been published on them. Haunch's book, "Tracing Boards: Their Development and their Designers", has been in print for over 40 years but is primarily an historical treatise. There is no publication which adequately explains the Tracing Boards, their use and the meaning of their symbolism, and this book fills that gap in the market. The first part of the book will give a history of the development and use of Tracing Boards; the book then concentrates on explaining the role of the Tracing Boards in the First, Second and Third Degrees, and the specific symbolism of the Board used for each. Detailed descriptions of the Boards are given, particularly those used in the three degrees by the Emulation Lodge of Improvement, known as the Harris Boards, which contain the elements of most of the Tracing Boards used in lodges throughout Britain.
Where History Fails, Legend Prevails: Questioning the Evidence of Claims of the Masonic Affiliation of Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett
By John Bizzack
An examination into the claims of Masonic affiliation of Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett.
The lack of genuine evidence to support claims that Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett were Freemasons has not prevented the wide-spread belief that both men were members of the Ancient and Honorable Fraternity.
For the first time these claims are meticulously examined and researched offering the reader the opportunity to learn and understand how and why these claims took on a life of their own.
A very unique and well thought out book in which the author offers a fascinating inspection of the largely anecdotal information which has led to the common believe over the past 150 years (or more) that Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett were Freemasons. Bizzack's scrutiny and investigation proves beyond a reasonable doubt the belief has been based on legend, misinterpreted information and events over the years, which blindly led Masons and non-Masons alike to merely accept the evidence-troubled lore as fact.
This book serves as a much needed reminder that when any interesting story is accepted as fact without a balanced examination of the evidence to support it, there are always consequences - especially when the story involves beloved historical figures.
Freemasonry: A Journey Through Ritual and Symbol
By W. Kirk MacNulty
If you read this book you will have more understanding of the original MEANING of Freemasonry and Masonic ritual than 90% of actual modern Freemasons.
It is well explained in this short, well written, and beautifully illustrated book what all the symbolism of the First, Second, and Third degrees were actually intended to mean. This is because the author is as well versed in the mystery religions and sacred architecture of classical times as were the founders of the Craft. Indeed you come to realize that there is a comprehensive and satisfying overview of universal spiritual wisdom in these rituals, of the self, soul, and spirit (the three Principle Officers.) This is not trivial stuff. Indeed, it is pointed out that the ultimate goal of the Third Degree is to actually die to one's self and be reborn. This was also the end goal of the old Mystery Religions- and of any spiritual path worthy of the name.
There are no "secrets" revealed here. The only secrets are those found in your own soul after deep introspection. But these rituals do point the way, and this booklet does prepare your mind on the proper path.
If you would contemplate profound, mind-expanding truths that will move you closer to the universal architect and his creation, then this is your book. If you are primarily interested in fancy rings, funny hats, and go-carts, then perhaps you should look elsewhere.
Freemasonry: Symbols, Secrets and Significance
By W. Kirk MacNulty
The ultimate book on Freemasonry, with a rich collection of symbols and lore that illuminate the famous fraternal society.
"The Craft," with an estimated four million Freemasons worldwide, remains the largest fraternal organization in the world. Written by an active Freemason, this book comprehensively explains Freemasonry through its fascinating visual culture, rich in mysterious and arcane symbols of life, death, and morality that have evolved over centuries of secrecy and that have profound philosophical meaning.
Ceremonial regalia, paintings, manuscripts, tracing boards, ritual swords, furniture, prints, ephemera, and architecture: the book is copiously illustrated with many specially researched items from Freemasonry archives. This unrivaled compendium will appeal both to Freemasons wishing to learn the full story of their order and to a general audience that is intensely curious about this traditionally secretive and closed movement.
The coverage includes:
- The historical and philosophical background of the order, including the Knights Templar, the medieval stonemasons' guilds, and esoteric traditions such as Kabbalah and Hermeticism
- Its history from the earliest Masons to the present day, including famous members and scandals
- Its geographical spread from Japan to California, Sweden to South Africa
Discovering Freemasonry in Context: The Laboratory of Moral Science
By John Bizzack
This book provides a welcome and enjoyable reminder of the importance thinking in context and especially doing so when researching Freemasonry and history in general. Written with eye-opening and in balanced style, it encourages us with many examples to put things in context and look with clear vision to validate our thinking – and not fall prey to evidence-troubled theories and the thinking it typically causes.
Encyclopedic in coverage, the book offers something for Masons as well as non-Mason – straightforward, direct and informative. An important contribution to Masonic literature.
REVIEWED BY JIM TRESNER, 33, GRAND LODGE OF OKLAHOMA, SCOTTISH RITE JOURNAL
Discovering Freemasonry in Context offers an extensive summary of a number of historical Kentucky Masons.
The Secrets of Masonic Washington
By James Wasserman
A fully illustrated guide to the Masonic origins and present-day Masonic sites of Washington, D.C.
- Provides a walking tour of the Masonic sites and symbols of the city
- Explores the critical role of Freemasonry in the founding of the United States
- By the author of The Templars and Assassins
In this guide to the Masonic underpinnings of America’s capital, Wasserman reveals the esoteric symbols and the spiritual and visionary ideas that lie hidden in the buildings, monuments, and physical layout of Washington, D.C. His walking tour of these Masonic sites includes both the expected and unexpected--from the Lincoln Memorial and the Capitol Building to the Federal Reserve complex, National Academy of Sciences, and the Library of Congress. Each location includes descriptions, interpretations, and explanations of the Masonic symbols and ritualistic meanings hidden within its structure, all illustrated with contemporary color and historic black-and-white photographs.
Wasserman explains the purpose behind putting these symbols and Masonic designs into the capitol and how all these monuments fit into the spiritual vision held by the founding fathers. He reveals the prominent role that Freemasonry played in the 18th-century Enlightenment movement and shows how in the New World of America, free of monarchy and aristocracy, the ideas of the Enlightenment were able to flourish. This illustrated guidebook to the Masonic secrets of Washington, D.C., provides valuable insights on the founding of America. It will be welcomed by students of esoteric art and symbolism, admirers of American history, and devotees of Dan Brown novels and National Treasure movies.
By Steven Bullock
In the first comprehensive history of the fraternity known to outsiders primarily for its secrecy and rituals, Bullock traces Freemasonry through its first century in America. He follows the order from its origins in Britain and its introduction into North America in the 1730s to its near-destruction by a massive anti-Masonic movement almost a century later and its subsequent reconfiguration into the brotherhood we know today. With a membership that included Franklin, Washington, Paul Revere, and Andrew Jackson, Freemasonry is fascinating in its own right, but Bullock also places the movement at the center of the transformation of American society and culture from the colonial era to the rise of Jacksonian democracy. Using lodge records, members' reminiscences and correspondence, and local and Masonic histories, Bullock links Freemasonry with the changing ideals of early American society.
Morgan: The Scandal that Shook Freemasonry
By Stephen Dafoe
For more than a century, Freemasons have held fast to the belief that Masons did not murder William Morgan; rather they deported him to Canada. In "Morgan: The Scandal That Shook Freemasonry", author, journalist and Freemason Stephen Dafoe disassembles that myth while reassembling the trail of evidence that remains to uncover the facts behind this 183-year-old Masonic cold case.
Stephen Dafoe produces an honest and engaging look at the disappearance of William Morgan, an event that haunted Freemasons for years to come and perhaps continues to do so today. His excellent narrative style offers a readable
and intriguing mystery. The book is, however, not a work of fiction. It is backed profusely with factual documentation given in the book, yet in a fashion so as not to disrupt the enjoyment of the story. Dafoe's suppositions are rare and only created with solid documentation. His conclusions on what possibly occurred to Morgan are well-reasoned in light of the facts and face up to possibilities some may find uncomfortable.
Truth is more important than comfort for Stephen, which makes this a very readable and enjoyable examination of the available facts. A great treatment of this controversial subject.
Albert Pike: The Man Beyond the Monument
By James Tresner
As the author points out, most Scottish Rite Masons are almost afraid to approach the subject of Albert Pike. Many find that his writings, written in the verbose Victorian style of the 19th century, are beyond their comprehension. And the Southern Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry hasn't helped matters any by turning Pike into an almost mythological figure. As a result, most of us have been overwhelmed by him and have not felt worthy enough to approach the subject of so much awe and mystery.
Tresner does an amazing job in showing us all that Pike is indeed approachable. He peels away the mythology and shows us that, while worthy of our respect and admiration, Pike was indeed as human as any of us. Tresner fleshes out this character that has been cast in stone for the last hundred years, thus making both the man and his writings more accessible to us today. Even if you are not a mason and don't know anything about the Scottish Rite, you will still enjoy this look at one of the most amazing figures of the 19th century. He was a lawyer, a civil war general, an author, an explorer, a musician and an early advocate of Native American rights and wrote about philosophy and religion and updated the rituals of the Scottish Rite.
It is a shame that more attention hasn't been paid to the amazing life of this individual. This book is very readable, as it is written in down to earth language. The author is not out to impress anybody with multi-syllabic language. He is not a scholar trying to impress other scholars. Neither does he insult your intelligence by writing underneath you.
Unlike most biographies, which start at the subject's birth and chronologically list his achievements until death, Tresner devotes each chapter to a separate aspect of Pike's life.
There is a chapter devoted to his relationship with the American Indians, one devoted to his lifelong pursuit of knowledge in Freemasonry, even one about his collection of pipes. Thus we can truly appreciate not only Pike's incredible achievements but those small character traits and quirks which made him so likable to those who knew him. By learning more about Pike, we learn about ourselves and about the infinite possibilities which life has to offer.
A Pilgrim’s Path
By John J. Robinson
There are other works which are much longer and go into much more detail but page for page this is probably one of the best books written about or for Masons.
Furthermore it would be a perfect read for any man about to join the Brotherhood, and his family, especially his wife, should read it as soon as he is finished. John Robinson writes in a style that not only can be understood by someone who has never been exposed to Masonry but it also holds the total interest of someone who has not only been a Mason for years but who grew up going to Lodge functions.
Robinson spends the first section of the book taking on Anti-Masons of the world. He has without a doubt spent a lot of time making a study of Anti-Masonic writings for he is able to take their arguments one at a time and expose the deception and outright lies they make a living on. For example, Pat Robertson, James Holly and others like them take a document credited to Albert Pike which makes it look like Pike if not all Masons do indeed worship Lucifer. This document was in fact written by a man named Leo Taxil who would later freely admit he made the whole thing up and that Pike had nothing to do with it. Taxil in fact took great delight in telling people how he had pulled the wool over their eyes and had made a fortune in so doing. Robertson in his book "A New World Order" attributes this document to Pike. Either he didn't research his work too well or he simply didn't care about the truth.
Finally, Robinson delivers several great ideas to help Masonry not only survive but grow. Several of the mistaken ideas he mentions that he has heard from Masons themselves I have heard also. As he points out, to exclude your family from your Masonic life is to invite problems. Masons everywhere should listen to his advice and Masonry can't help but benefit.
In short, if you are curious about Masonry or already been given a bad impression of Masonry but still have an open mind, read this book.
Deciphering the Lost Symbol: Freemasons, Myths and the Mysteries of Washington, D.C.
By Christopher Hodapp
DISCOVER THE SECRETIVE BROTHERHOOD BEHIND DAN BROWN'S THE LOST SYMBOL
Freemason influence on the founding of Washington, D.C., is evident throughout the city's buildings, statues and monuments--but it's written in coded symbols that few people understand. Dan Brown's new thriller sends symbologist detective Robert Langdon through the capital to unravel its Masonic secrets. Now in Deciphering The Lost Symbol, Freemason expert Christopher L. Hodapp compares each clue and plot twist in Brown's story to the true facts.
For the Good of the Order: Examining the Shifting Paradigm within Freemasonry
By John Bizzack
What has transpired in North American Freemasonry since the 1960s has been influenced by not only factors external to the institution, but less obvious internal ones as well. To better understand where the Craft has been and where it will likely be in the future requires a balanced examination in context, a context wherein Freemasonry is viewed as a whole, not in fragments.
For the Good of the Order examines the long-standing attitude regarding membership decline and lack of engagement by men who enter the West Gate with initial enthusiasm, but soon find their zeal for active involvement in the Fraternity waning. This panoramic view and examination illustrates that much of what the institution faces today and in the future regarding membership decline, is much more likely to be effectively addressed by what is often seen emerging in Masonry today around the country: a return to past traditions and practicing traditional Freemasonry in our lodges.
A Traditional Observance Lodge: One Mason’s Journey to Fulfillment
By Cliff Porter
The author's home lodge is different. They suffer from higher than 100% attendance, men wait periods of longer than a year to get initiated, they have never lost a single Entered Apprentice, they have nobody on the roles who is NPD or has been dropped for NPD. Men arrive on lodge days at 8:00 a.m. and are often reluctantly leaving for home near midnight or 2:00 a.m. Their dues are high by American standards, the background check is rigorous, and the initiations are solemn and serious. Every lodge meeting is treated as an event and celebrated as such. Dinner is treated as a feast with all its positive connotations. Freemasonry is celebrated in every aspect of the lodge. From the artwork, the furnishings, the set up and the atmosphere; all aspects of the lodge meeting are intentional and meant to create an experience.
The Lodge is a Traditional Observance Lodge or T.O. Lodge as it is called by some. Like all labels, the Traditional Observance label has caused fear and fright, anger and frustration, confusion, and edicts. It has also helped to define the practices that make the author's lodge one of the most successful lodges in the United States by any standard one might choose to measure it. This book does not claim to provide a Masonic magic pill for the ailing lodges of the world. Nor does it claim in any fashion or form that the way this author's lodge operates is the only way or the best way to operate. What this book does is explain the Traditional Observance model and encourages ideas in the area of increasing the lodge experience and allowing quality to become the watchword over every aspect of Freemasonry.
Freemasonry: An Introduction
By Mark Koltko-Rivera
An experienced Freemason and award-winning psychologist provides a precise and engaging exploration of the core meaning and practices of Freemasonry for the new generation of people interested in joining the order, and those who are simply curious in the wake of recent media coverage. Entertaining books and movies often depict Freemasonry as a shadowy, mysterious, and possibly sinister organization, and the TV and magazine specials on Freemasonry that inevitably follow often leave us with more questions than answers. Mark E. Koltko-Rivera, a practicing thirty-second-degree Mason, has created a simple, authoritative, and easy-to-understand introduction to the history, rites, and meaning of Freemasonry. It may be the single most reliable short guide to Masonry, written by a widely recognized psychologist and scholar of esoteric history.
Taking Issue: An Anthology of Commentaries about the Practice & State of Freemasonry in North America
By John Bizzack
Taking Issue is a collection of refreshingly candid commentaries examining many issues relative to the state and practices of Freemasonry in North America today. The author presents clear and convincing arguments genuinely advancing the discussion of these issues in a context, characterizing the voice of those Masons who seek the fraternity to be more than ordinary. These timely commentaries and observations cut to the heart of various topics validating with clarity how Freemasonry is intended for practice as a complete system. Collectively, these essays affirm in no uncertain terms, that Freemasonry is meant to be an educational institution with the purpose of improving the minds and effectiveness of its members through its practices.
This compendium of straightforward and introspective writings not only consider the causes for today’s trends, but offers solid evidence in preparation to act on remedies. Commentaries, particularly those offering critical thinking and rhetorical reasoning can often validate what we have thought or are thinking. Sometimes they promote us to face our views and weigh them against those presented. In essence: they cause us to think beyond what we sometimes just accept.
The Mason’s Words: The History & Evolution of the American Masonic Ritual
By Robert G. Davis
Freemasonry is entirely built around traditions. From time immemorial, those who have belonged to the world's oldest and largest fraternal order have metaphorically passed between the pillars of Solomon's Temple to nurture within themselves a harmonious bond between tradition and modernity.
This is the story of the Masonic ritual, the language and ceremonial forms that have evolved into the present structure of American Freemasonry, defined its lodge space, and offered its members the same stabilizing influence of instruction that has prevailed on every continent for nearly 400 years.
The reader will discover that the language of the world's oldest fraternal society has also made its own interesting journey, and been tested by the most powerful and the most humbling of men. The result is that, in Masonic lodges across America, and, indeed, the world, men from every walk of life, of all ages, every social category and every spiritual and philosophical conviction are able to find a basis for reflection on who they are, why they are here, and what has meaning to them.
Operative Freemasonry: A Manual for Restoring Light and Vitality to the Fraternity
By Kirk C. White
AN OPERATOR'S MANUAL FOR FREEMASONRY.
Every new Mason learns that "operative masonry" refers to the art and practice of stone working while "speculative masonry" refers to Freemasonry. "Operative Freemasonry" is a manual on the art and practice of Freemasonry.
By providing detailed information and advice often overlooked or forgotten on how Freemasonry "works", this book explores how the fraternity can actually "make good men better" and keep them active in our lodges and chapters.
Areas covered include:
- Light Defined
- Secrets and Mysteries
- Prospective Freemasons: how to find them
- Framing the Sacred: Preparation for Lodge
- Openings and Closings
- Initiation: what it is and how it works
- Mentorship: how to keep our brothers active
- Daily Freemasonry
Resource for Further Light Written for every Mason who wants to bring Light and Vitality back to his lodge and the fraternity.
The Renaissance of Freemasonry: The Revival of Speculative Masonry in Modern America
By David L. Brunelle
Reviewed by Andrew Hammer:
Books like this will change Freemasonry permanently for the better. When it comes to Masonic books, bigger isn't always better. The Renaissance of Freemasonry packs a lot of "thought" in to a pocket-sized volume suitable for mass distribution to Masonic candidates, new Master Masons and Lodge Officers alike. This book should be mandatory reading for all Masons.
The topics covered are clearly presented and cause immediate reflection. This book allows the individual Mason to decipher how he might be a part of the current Masonic "renaissance" the author speaks of. The content even spills over into practical application in one's personal life. Leaders of other fraternal groups will also find value in reading this book.
I get approached by a lot of young men interested in learning more about Masonry; I will give copies of this digestible reference to each person that approaches me. Rather than a historical dialog about what Masonry has been, this is an insightful and introspective work on what Masonry is now and is becoming. Aspiring seekers that are coming to Masonry's door express desire for meaning, and that is what the symbolism and allegory of Masonry's teaching is meant to provide. Mr. Brunelle does a good job of addressing that desire; his work is a beneficial for current Masons, line officers, and those who are looking to petition a Lodge alike.
Freemasonry: The Reality
By Tobias Churton
Churton is not just a Freemason writing on the fraternity; he is also a scholar and professor at Exeter University, Lecturer in Freemasonry and Rosicrucian’s at the Center for the Study of Western Esotericism. Churton’s published works span the breadth of western mystery traditions encompassing the early Gnostics, Rosicrucian’s, and Freemasons, which pull together many of the offshoots and ideas that went into the composition of the groups today. Churton’s work however is less about dazzling aggrandizement of a mysterious past, focusing instead on the known and with a meticulous hand, reconstructing the holes of the fraternity’s formation.
In Freemasonry – The Reality, Churton leaves no stone unturned and with his meticulous hand reconstructs the modern day mystery tradition from its most extreme foundational stones buried in the footnotes of history, following each loose thread back into the whole garment of the present day craft. But in this work he also refuses to hold back any punches in his analysis that our present manifestation of the craft is every bit a result of our manufactured past, from the clever arrangement of James Anderson and the constitutions of 1720 and the marrying of the “Speculative” with the “Operative” tracing back the foundation of Masonries earliest of ideas to the early Renaissance work of author Pico Mirandola and the Oration on the Dignity of Man.
One aspect that stood out to me in crisp detail was the way in which Churton pulls together in several seemingly unrelated bits of history and finds their common connection that brings them into a coherent theme. From early meeting notes, names on a register, royal archives on the guilds, and diary mentions, each of these bread crumbs become the framework by which he assembles the whole work. By digging deep into symbols that at one time held great significance and in his work he re-illuminates them so as to demystify and put them back into a proper perspective. Case in point, the pentagram, reminding the reader of the earlier Masonic appellation (under Robert Moray) to represent AGAPA (or the Greek word agapein), or love, a geometric perfection.
Laudable Pursuit: A 21st Century Response to Dwight Smith
By Knights of the North
Laudable Pursuit is paper written in 2005 and distributed in booklet format by a group known as The Knights of the North. The document is 38 pages in length and is a response to two books written by M. W. Bro. Dwight Smith, past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Indiana. Smith's two books, written in the early 1960s warned the Masonic fraternity of the direction it was headed - few heeded Smith's words. Laudable Pursuit has caught the hearts of many Masons today; however, there are those that find it too harsh in its criticisms.
The Foundations of Modern Freemasonry
By Ric Berman
The transformation of English Freemasonry after the foundation of the Grand Lodge of England in 1717 was especially marked by the (largely nominal) leadership of young aristocrats who transformed Freemasonry into an important component of the economic, scientific, social, and political changes of the 18th century.
Freemasonry rapidly became an important facet of the upper reaches of English society, and Berman traces the role these aristocratic architects played in the formation of what quickly became the most prominent and socially elite fraternal order of the modern era.
There were important connections between Freemasonry and the judiciary, the Royal Society, and other learned and professional societies. Berman provides a useful introduction to these key figures, as well as a series of valuable appendixes, giving readers the Grand Officers of the Grand Lodge of England, excerpts from the Masonic 1723 Constitutions, a list of the various military lodges, and an inventory of the Masonic membership of selected professional societies. A valuable work for serious Masonic historians.
The Craft Driven Lodge
By Daniel Hrinko
About the fundamental principles that are essential to the long-term health and well-being of Masonic Lodges. The Craft Driven Lodge approach allows brothers to identify their particular interests, their particular resources, and empowers them to create a Lodge experience that is to their liking without being tied to any particular set of actions, ceremonies, or even fundamental beliefs beyond those universal to Speculative Freemasonry across the globe. The Craft Driven Lodge will delight you on how easy it is to stimulate your brethren into action to create a vibrant, fun and fundamentally sound lodge. This book will teach you how to:
- Have Fun and engaging meetings.
- Get Brothers excited about coming to stated meetings again.
- Perform meaningful Rituals for your candidates.
Managing the Future of Freemasonry
By David West
While there’s a surplus of contemporary Masonic writings available today, precious few delve as thoughtfully and thoroughly as Dr. West does into the critical issues surrounding the management of the future of Freemasonry.
As he points out in Managing the Future of Freemasonry, “the golden years of the fraternity have passed with the departure of a world never likely to return, as he contributes toward the understanding of why those golden years existed in the first place. His examination also helps us understand why Freemasonry continues to behave as if it were still in that golden era even though our membership has steadily declined, the appearance of our lodges are in a state of decay, Masonic education sorely lacking, and the proficiency of ritual work is commonly described as slovenly.
West presents the facts of how Freemasonry has increasingly become a reflection of the society around us instead of an example against which society may find useful today in gauging its decency, values, and behavior. He lays out his arguments in a logical, accurate, and sometimes humorous manner. His optimism about how all of this this can be turned around is contagious.
West chronicles the social change that has taken place - social change that has directly and adversely affected our fraternity since the early 1800s - not just since membership sharply declined in the late 1940s. His analysis of what he classifies as social “phases” from the period of 1950 to the present, however, most aptly summarizes how and why Freemasonry slowly began to lose its once wide appeal, and even took on the appearance of a counter-culture. Importantly, West shows how our institution walked blindfolded in this perfect storm because of an “almost complete lack of leadership” as the old source for candidates dramatically shifted. He argues confidently how society now may seem less than welcoming to the ideals of Freemasonry today, yet there is ample audience of men who are hungry for the fellowship and moral meaning the fraternity offers.
West’s writing rings of the tone set by Andrew Hammer’s work Observing the Craft, and Kirk White’s, Operative Freemasonry: A Manual for Restoring Light and Vitality to the Fraternity. He underscores throughout his work that the revitalization of Masonry is not a matter of tinkering with the periphery, but requires a focus on the meaning of Freemasonry to reverse its course. It is clear from this book that whatever course is taken by Freemasonry in the future will be guided by men who have become Masons - not just those who become members.
Masons should add Managing the Future of Freemasonry to their list of books most often recommended to members of the Craft.
Seeking Light: The Esoteric Heart of Freemasonry
By Michael Poll
Seeking Light is an approachable, easy to read collection of common Masonic philosophy and practices. The pages provide clear thoughts and advice on many of today's Masonic questions and the situations that plague our lodges and members. It is the esoteric heart of Freemasonry.
How & Why Freemasonry Came to Kentucky - The Backstory
By John Bizzack
Over time, many details and particulars give way to a generalized representation of the past when it comes to the questions surrounding how and why Freemasonry came to Kentucky when it did. The nature of historical truth is most typically found within the realm of a balanced interpretation of the facts.
Read newly discovered evidence that offers the factual backstory to these questions and more.
What is the difference between the accounts used since the 1930s to tell us about how Masonry came to Kentucky and the factual accounts driven by historical events in Kentucky from 1776 to 1778? Why did those historical events influence men to petition the Grand Lodge of Virginia for a charter in 1788 to authorize the creation of the first Kentucky Masonic lodge? Why was Lexington chosen for the site of that lodge? Why was Col. Richard Clough Anderson selected as the first Master of Kentucky’s first Masonic lodge? Did Freemasons have more to do with the development of Lexington or did the development of Lexington to establish Freemasonry in Kentucky? Did a “confidential mission” of a spy sent by George Washington to Kentucky play a role in petitioning of the Grand Lodge of Virginia for the charter to establish the first Masonic lodge in Kentucky?
These questions and many more are left unanswered in the history of how Freemasonry came to Kentucky and why it arrived when it did - until now.