Thursday, June 28, 2007

Masonic Reading

“Masonry, as now organized and employed, is not adequate to the demands of a realistic generation, and that to go on making men Masons, as we are doing, wholesale, without giving them an intelligent and authentic knowledge of what Masonry is, or what it means, with no definite objects beyond fellowship and philanthropy – objects to which other orders are equally devoted – is for Masonry to lose, by ignorance or neglect, what has been distinctive in its history and genius, and invite degeneration, if not disaster.” – M.'.W.'. Dwight L. Smith, Past Grand Master of Indiana, MSA Short Talk Bulletin, September 1928.

I came across that quote in a paper by Brother Stephen Dafoe, recently published in Volume 14 of Herodom, entitled “Reading, Writing and Apathy: The Rise and Fall of Masonic Education.” Herodom is, of course, the published Annual Transactions of the Scottish Rite Research Society. The Society is, in my opinion, the best Masonic Research Society in the United States and right up there with the British Quatuor Coronati. Its annual dues fee is the best $40 that you will ever spend. The paper was originally given at a communication of Lodge Vitruvian No. 767, F & AM, Indianapolis, Indiana on July 26, 2005. Brother Defoe outlines the topics covered by several Masonic publications over the past century and a half and shows that those covering Masonic Ritual, Philosophy & Symbolism have been on the decline while those covering famous Masons and fluff pieces have increased. A survey of three booksellers also seemed to indicate the same pattern. We have all seen it. So what can we do about it?

“I am a Librarian for a Law Firm here in Syracuse and I occasionally work for the County Library System as well so I am in the habit of recommending books and that’s where I will start today. I have no problems with “fluff” like “The DaVinci Code” or “National Treasure” but if you are looking for novels, why not check out Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum or even Katherine Kurtz’s fantasy “Two Crown’s for America”.

But if you really want to sink your teeth into some serious Masonic material, I highly recommend the following three books:

Just released by the Scottish Rite Research Society is the “Scottish Rite Ritual Monitor & Guide” as compiled by Arturo deHoyos, 33˚. This is one massive tome concerning the Ritual, Symbolism and Education of the Supreme Council of the AASR for the Southern Masonic Jurisdiction of the United States. It contains a treasure trove of Albert Pike Scottish Rite material. Coming in at nearly 1000 pages, it is well worth more than the asking price. As a Scottish Rite Mason from the Northern Jurisdiction, I am very envious of the Southern Jurisdiction’s commitment to its Ritual and wish the my Jurisdiction would consider returning top their Ritual as opposed to constantly changing & watering down ours.

Also from Brother deHoyos is last year’s “Symbolism of the Blue Degrees of Freemasonry, Albert Pike’s Esoterika” which I have previously mentioned here. These two books alone will provide years of study for the esoterically bent Freemason.

I would also like to recommend Brother W. Kirk MacNulty’s “Freemasonry: Symbols, Secrets, Significance”. This book is beautifully put together with lots of Masonic information and many illustrations and photographs that I haven’t already seen a million times.

Buy these books, recommend them to your Masonic & Public Libraries, but more importantly, read these books and spread their Masonic Light onto your Brethren.


Traveling Man said...

I referenced W.B. Dafoe's article in a post at the Jewel.

One of the best of the "New Breed" of Masonic authors.


Mark said...

I must say that I back each of your book recommendations 100%. I have a forthcoming article in _Further Light_, the journal of the Florida Lodge of Research, in which I recommend _Esoterika_ and _Freemasonry: Symbols, Secrets, Significance_ as part of a reading program for Masons. I have another article submitted elsewhere in which I recommend the _Scottish Rite Ritual Monitor and Guide_ in a similar reading program specifically for Scottish Rite Masons. Anyone interested in either manuscript is welcome to contact me at

Mark said...

My previous comment was focused on Masonic _self_ education. However, the blogpost actually started out with a related but separate topic, Masonic education _in the lodge_. This is a matter that we are well-advised to take under consideration: anecdotal reports suggest that we are seeing a new type of initiate enter the lodge, more focused on the esoteric knowledge of Masonry, and yet our lodge meetings typically give little or no education in this regard. My recommendation is that we fundamentally rethink, and then fundamentally re_work_, Masonic meetings. Masonic education, focused on the esoteric symbolism of the Craft and its application in life, should be a central concern of every tyled meeting: Lodge meeting, District meeting, even Grand Lodge meeting.

Traveling Man said...


I can tell you that my Lodge has, over the past year, started a very stimulating series of educational presentations at our meetings.

Yes, I am interested in the esoteric side of Freemasonry, but as a fairly new Brother, I also would like to know how my Grand Lodge functions, the proper way to conduct ritual, and the perspectives of our Established Masons.

Anything more than opening, paying bills, and closing.

But that's just me.

Traveling Man

Anonymous said...

Great recommendations.