Books on Freemasonry - Reviews
Masonic Book reviews
The Profound Pontifications of Brother John Deacon
Reviewed by WBro Damien of Lodge Devotion Author: Chris Williams
Published by: www.Blurb.com
Recommended for: General Audience, including non-Freemasons
The title of this book will be familiar to readers to the newsletter of Davey Crocket Lodge #1225 in Texas. The book’s content comprises a serialised account of the interactions of the wise but troublesome food obsessed Bro John Deacon and his mechanic and Masonic Brother, Chris Williams. This odyssey is published in that lodge newsletter, and also reproduced in Corky Daut’s Small Town Texas Mason (STTM).
Each chapter is self contained, generally of two to ten pages in length. I found myself rationing them like a bag of lollies to enjoy and absorb the stories where the true hero is always Freemasonry and it’s improving affect on its members and those they meet.
Readers may also be familiar with the “Old Tyler’s Talks” by Carl H Claudy which first appeared in 1921 and in many ways Pontifications is a contemporary version of them.
Unlike the Tyler’s Talks, the Pontifications have a fresher and more contemporary feel; John one days shocks Chris by using sms; albeit basically beyond him and his huge fingers, he has discovered he can speak into his phone and send smses. The Pontifications held my interest and were so enjoyable I sort out the author and now correspond with him.
Brother Deacon might demand silence while consuming copious amounts of food at the author’s expense but once full, often launched into passionate and animated flight expounding his Profound Pontifications about Freemasonry. This folksy wisdom is often timeless and Brother Deacon is a mix of walking (and mechanical) disaster and wisdom born of passion and deep reflections on Freemasonry and the challenge of today’s Lodges. While all but one of the restaurants the two visit are real places, John has the advantage of being a fictitious brother. He is a pastiche of brothers we all know, and reminds me constantly of a mixture of our own President Mike and Almoner Drew, although John drives a F-350 and Drew an F-100. John is described as 6’4”, 275 pounds, wearing black alligator boots and Stetson Silverbelly, but is authentically written and his gruff but gentle cowboy charm and values, reinforced by his Masonic Membership, are appealing and memorable; as are his high jinx “kidding around” or just getting himself and poor Brother Chris in jams, like crashing a wedding of a “friend” he turns out not to actually know, but in a Dickensen coincidence; the bride’s father is a Freemason and the uninvited speech John delivers with the skill of a seasoned Past Master, pulls at the heart and melts the audience. All is forgiven in brotherhood and sincerity.
Part of the charm of the installments is the unlikely friendship between mechanic and salesperson, the latter being John and possibly making sales based on people wishing to silence him. They obviously have not made Chris’s discovery of simply presenting him food. Freemasonry unites the two goodhearted friends, just as it does for millions of other men over the globe.
Carl H Claudy published 414 The Old Tylers Talks, let’s hope Chris Williams keeps it up and we see additional volumes of The Profound Pontifications of Brother John Deacon.
You can buy the book in either hard or soft cover, with proceeds supporting Freemasonry, via
Masonic Book reviews
Freemasonry - Symbols, Secrets, Significance
By W. Kirk MacNulty, Published Thames and Hudson 2006 ISBN 978-050051302-6
Reviewed by WBro Damien of Lodge Devotion
Recommended for; Master Masons
I recently obtained a copy of the above from the Kew Library but have also seen it in bookstores.
Don’t let the hundreds of wonderful pictures fool you; this book is for reading with interesting and well written text reflecting the sound Masonic knowledge of the author. One of the early chapters is an excellent crash course in Masonic history founded in fact rather than speculation. It gives a succinct account of the foundation of United Grand Lodge England and others. It describes the development of Anderson’s Constitutions and explains the split of the “Ancients” and “Moderns” in 1751. Later, it touches on the higher orders and contextualizes Freemasonry in the philosophical outlook of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century. It contains an interesting take on the symbolic meaning of lodge officers. Some reviewers criticise it for “text was limited to brief essays and extensive captions” – but for me, that was part of the attraction.
What another reviewer said;
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 unrivalled 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.
Topics include 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 300 illustrations, 200 in colour
Masonic Book reviews
It's No Secret. Real Men Wear Aprons. The Story of Freemasonry in Australia
Edited by Peter Lazar Kirk MacNulty, Published by Masonic Care Ltd 2009. ISBN 978-0-646-52446-7
Reviewed by WBro Damien of Lodge Devotion
Recommended for; General Audience
It’s No Secret, Real Men Wear Aprons was published in NSW and specially addresses Freemasonry in Australia. It is being sold by many Grand Lodges, including our own UGLV.
Being moderately well read on Freemasonry and as a Past Master, much of the book contained material I had seen before. Nonetheless, because the booking is being sold by GL and because if addresses Australian Freemasonry, it is still of note. Unlike other overviews of Australian Freemasonry, it is generalist, not dry and an easy read.
Of particular interest were the snapshots of Famous Australian Freemasons. The chapter on Masonic Art in Tracing Boards was the highlight of the book for me. Certainly the sort of book you can hand to a prospective candidate or newer Freemason in full confidence they will get a better understanding of the craft if they read it.
The book is also available via the Kew Library.
See the books website at www.itsnosecret.com.au
Observing the Craft by Andrew Hammer.
From Berkley Masonic Lodge # 523 Trestleboard -Volume 87 Issue 6 June 2012
The book rationally takes issue with the myriad "distractions" that the Fraternity has developed over the decades, namely the appendant orders (e.g. York, Scottish Rites, Knights Templar) and other Masonic related clubs (e.g. Shrine, OES, etc.). This is where the author is courageous. The ideas in this short treatise are not likely to sit well with literally thousands of good members of the Order who see Freemasonry's objectives and emphasis in a different light. Fortunately, the author is circumspect and smart enough to acknowledge the 'many paths' argument and as such, largely avoids pedantry in advancing his opinions.
The book also focuses concisely on issues regarding the pursuit of excellence in working at what Freemasons profess to hold central. It treats of such seemingly incidental issues as dress codes, decorum and the festive board. In fact, Observing the Craft makes clear that dress, decorum and the festive board are central to how brethren should view their attachment and dedication to the Fraternity. The repeated references to Craftsmanship are not surprise and are obviously appropriate.
There is little doubt that Observing the Craft is a clarion call, or a manifesto of sorts. Manifestos always the ruffle feathers of the comfortable and powerful. It is one of a small number of writings that have sprung up in the last 5-7 years in particular aimed at a reformation or renaissance within the Masonic Fraternity. While it will surely be viewed as a bit strident by many, such forceful opinions, respectfully communicated and solidly supported, are what so many of the younger cohort of Freemasons and postulants are in accord with and seeking to see expressed.
In the end, Observing the Craft may be controversial but it need not be in a fraternity where
respect for multiple opinions is to be valued. Ideally, book discussions (starting with this
one) should ensue in Lodges across the various lands where Masons may be found. As sitting Master of the eminent Alexandria-Washington Lodge # 22, the author is in a unique position to be heard on these matters and to presumably influence the future direction of that august Lodge and others by extension.
Observing the Craft deserves widespread coverage throughout the Fraternity worldwide and deserves serious discussion as to its thesis and supporting ideas.
Review - National Geographic on “Secret Societies”
Reviewed by WBro Damien of Lodge Devotion
Verdict; Disappointing but not trash
Recommended for; Beginners, Teenagers and doctors' waiting rooms.
Despite my better judgment, National Geographic’s special edition on “Secret Societies” proved too tempting to resist and I handed over my $19.95 and settled in for a read. It’s been years since I read the Geographic, but used to wait impatiently for my turn at the family’s monthly subscription. The articles on history, archaeology, the natural world and exotic peoples and places taught me much. A hallmark of its pages were engaging and educational text accompanied by amazing photographs for which the publication is famous. This offering was not quite as inspiring.
The edition was split into three chronological sections; “Ancient Times” incorporating articles on groups such as the Delphic Oracles, Eleusinian Mysteries, and Gnostic Christians, “The Middle Ages and Renaissance” reported on groups like The Cathars, Knights Templar, Assassins, Rosicrucians, Illuminati, Freemasons and even the Jesuits, and “Modern Era” with inclusions such as the Mafia, Triads, Skull and Bones, KKK, Opus Dei and even Scientology. The definition of a “secret society” was broad and loose catching religious traditions, chivalric orders, fraternities, criminal and political networks and Nazi Occult groups and The Odessa. It felt pop-culture inspired, and frankly light weight, no group has more than three pages – including images, Dan Brown and his character Robert Langdon and Angles and Demons do get a mention in the article on the Illuminati in conjunction with the Pantheon in Rome; not much to do with Bavaria – but in fairness, the text in that instalment is reasonable, as is it all. Unlike some other sensationalist publications, the text in “Secret Societies” does not really lead you down a garden path of fantasy but 1.5 pages of text is about the most you get on any group.
If you know what, AF&AM, Thule, P2, Kligrapp, or SRIA mean and can put them into a historical context, you should skip this publication... BUT I did learn that “Pharisees” literally means “the separated ones”, for me, that article on the was the most interesting, but I did pick up other things like; once Mithras Cult members passed the seven levels of initiation, they became fully vested members or syndexioi, “sealed by a handshake”.
Inclusion of Freemasonry will do us no harm but reflects the author’s (or editor’s) approach to “secret societies”. The author of the text is Jean-Pierre Isbouts who holds a Ph.D in archaeology and art. National Geographic describes him as “a bestselling ... author, international motivational speaker and an award-winning filmmaker, whose work celebrates the beauty and art of magical places around the globe. A doctoral professor at Fielding Graduate University in Santa Barbara, CA, he gained worldwide renown with his 2006 book The Biblical World, which became an international bestseller and is now in its fourth print. This success led to a series of National Geographic books, including the bestsellers In the Footsteps of Jesus (2011) and The Story of Christianity (2014)”.
As someone who knows a lot about Fraternities and “Secret Societies” both real and imagined, I am not sure Isbouts has done a great job and perhaps the publication would have been better served by focusing on one time period but certainly less groups with more detail. Perhaps it was just the brief given to the author or an editor looking to generate commercial appeal by including as many different types of “reader bait” as possible? That said, I will keep the mag because of its two-page timelines – or maybe you will soon see it at Lodge as a raffle prize, I certainly could not describe the magazine as trash or akin to some of the fantasy you read on “secret societies” but neither is it essential reading for the budding historical student of these groups. Maybe it’s a good starting point for a game show appearance if you are asked to list as many “secret societies” as you can and run out after four or five, but this quizmaster would reject “Jesuits” and/or “Society of Jesus”- unless you quantify it with “within states where they have been suppressed”; but that’s presented in counter-reformation context, and suppression in Catholic Countries by Catholic Monarchs (including the Pope at one point) doesn’t get a mention, so I guess I need some extension reading – but “Secret Societies” all very basic and broad brush reading.
Commentaries on the Scottish Rite Degrees by Darren Eastman
This book explores each of the Scottish Rite degrees; it helps explain the practical application and relevance of their intensive symbolism for modern audiences. This book was written as a result of the authors completion of the Scottish Rite Master Craftsman program, which is administered by the House of the Temple in Washington, DC. It has relatively short and straightforward chapters, which can be read individually as interest allows, or in a traditional cumulative fashion. The appendices offer excellent reference material and list the names of the various degrees by country, amongst others. It’s easy and fun to read, whether you’re a Freemason or not, This book is especially helpful for those who’re interested in the Master Craftsman program, those who’ve become stalled with it, and, the new or potential Scottish Rite Freemason. It offers excellent discussion points for sharing with others and is a bargain at only $3.99 USD (as at 10 Dec 2014). It’s available on all eBook stores, but is unfortunately not available in print. The books website is: http://my.bookbaby.com/book/scottishrite