Book Reviews: Holiday Hints

November-December 2011

By James T. Tresner II, 33°, Grand Cross, Book Review Editor

Illustration: Plate V. Forty-Seventh Problem and Nine Circles (with twice the number at Center) and Outer Squares only partly shown. From Bro. Henry P. H. Bromwell, Restorations of Masonic Geometry and Symbolry: Being a Discussion of the Lost Knowledge of the Lodge, Neenach, California: Blurb Publishing, 2010

It’s time for the traditional end-of-year book column: suggestions for Christmas or Hanukkah giving (or getting—some Brothers leave this issue open and marked on the coffee table as a subtle hint). We have a lot of books and other things to consider.

First, I always recommend a membership in the Scottish Rite Research Society. It’s an especially good gift for a father to give a son. You not only get Heredom, a hard-bound edition of the research papers for the year, you also get bonus books, discounts on purchases at the Scottish Rite Store, and The Plumbline. Look on page 25 of this issue for details.

My second perennial suggestion is a personal subscription to The Short Talk Bulletin published by the Masonic Service Association. For a mere pittance ($6) you can give 12 months of interesting contemporary Masonic news, thought, research, and information. To order, send a check payable to Masonic Service Association, 8120 Fenton Street, Suite 203, Silver Spring, MD 20910, www.msana.com, and tell them the name and address to which you want the Bulletin sent.

Dickinson, Bruce, The Chemical Wedding, music CD, Sanctuary Records, 2005, ASIN: B0009NCPCE, Available on the Internet new and used from about $6. Individual songs may be downloaded for $0.99 each.

The creator of this CD, Bruce Dickinson, is famous in the heavy metal musical tradition. I admit, with no sneering intended, that it is a form I simply don’t understand. But I mention it here because he has done an interesting blending of inspirations, many of which are familiar to us. “The Chemical Wedding” is, of course, the name of a very important book in the Rosicrucian and alchemical traditions. Dickinson seems to have drawn about equally from it and from the visual imagery of William Blake, and used them to create a work in a modern American musical form. The music has a fascinating energy and occasional darkness to it. It may not be your cup of tea, or you may find it rewarding and rich in its connotations. A word of warning: There are some words in the liner notes which this old Victorian is not accustomed to seeing in print. Nonetheless, it is an interesting experiment in the blending of traditions.

Chadburn, Bro. Steve, The Festive Freemason, Lexington, KY: CreateSpace Publisher, 2009, paperbound, 100 pages, cartoons, ISBN 13: 978-1449981006 Available on the Internet from $13.50, www.createspace.com.

You may have to put this book down from time to time while you regain control. Bro. Chadburn (Fellow of the Royal Society of Art, Founder Chairman of the Cartoonists Guild, and long-time Mason) has shamelessly exposed many Masonic secrets in this book. I don’t mean the esoteric work, I mean the real secrets such as: not all Masons are in perfect physical shape; some speakers at Masonic events are known to ramble a bit; degree practice can turn into a battle as to whether the right word is and or or; and the world at large does not always understand us. The drawings are a delight and some of the situations all too familiar. This is a lot of fun!

Hogan, Bro. Timothy W., KCCH, Novo Clavis Esoterika, Denver, Brazen Serpent LLC, 2010, hardbound (hand bound in leather) numbered and signed first edition, illustrations, 262 pages, limited to an edition of 555 copies. $110, order from the printer at www.brazenserpent.net.

OK, so at $110, it isn’t exactly a “stocking stuffer,” but what a joy it is. Some of our younger members may never have had the sensation of holding a well-bound book which caresses the hand as you open it, but it is a deeply satisfying experience. And the real treasure, of course, is the information inside. I’ve recommended two of Bro. Hogan’s books before, and they are included in the material in this volume. There is insight here into both the alchemical and Kabbalistic traditions and the symbolism which entered into Freemasonry. He writes with great clarity, unlike some authors who seem to feel they gain wisdom through obscurity. Give yourself a treat for Christmas and add this book to your library.

Bromwell, Bro. Henry P. H., Restorations of Masonic Geometry and Symbolry: Being a Discussion of the Lost Knowledge of the Lodge, (originally published in 1905 by Henry P. H. Bromwell Masonic Publishing Company) Anniversary edition published in Boulder, Colorado, by Lovers of the Craft. 2010, 559 pages, illustrations, bound-in page marker, $75.00 + $10.50 shipping. Order on-line at www.kevintownley.com/products/books/restoration-of-masonic-geometry-and-symb or by sending check payable to Kevin Townley, P.O. Box 11218, Boulder, CO 80301 (NOTE: a version of the book is also available from Amazon. It is not this edition but an inexpensive paperbound copy of the original 1905 text and much harder to read.)

Speaking of a beautiful book to hold, this edition of Restoration of Masonic Geometry and Symbolry, prepared in celebration of next year’s 150th Anniversary of the Grand Lodge of Colorado, is a grace and balm to the troubled spirit. Printed on a light cream paper, which makes the reading easier, and featuring leather quarter binding, it is a simply beautiful book. Brother Townley has spearheaded this project, and we owe him for it. Bromwell’s book is one of the very few examinations of the complex geometrical symbolism of the Fraternity, and most scholars think it is clearly the best. It is a very important book, and it is good to have it available again. This book belongs in any Masonic library.

Hoerricks, Bro. Jim, KCCH, Leadership in the Lodge of Perfection, Neenach, California: Blurb Publishing, 2010, softbound, illustrations, 87 pages, $9.95, order by going to www.blurb.com/bookstore and search for the title.

This book is a lot longer than 87 pages when it comes to ideas and common sense. It has an unusual genesis in that it was originally a thesis for a master’s degree. Brother Hoerricks became impressed with the leadership lessons contained in the degrees of the Scottish Rite: “I was amazed. Here, in the liturgy and dogma of the Scottish Rite, almost perfectly hidden, lies a leadership course, perfectly arranged. All that was necessary to bring it to life was a translation of the Victorian English and links to modern leadership theory.” He then goes through the Craft Degrees and the degrees of the Lodge of Perfection and distills the leadership principles. Very well done and very much worth reading. I’ve read through it a couple of times, and plan on using it in a class I’m teaching.

Wood, Bro. Douglas, and Mavrov, Bro. Dimitar, Into Masonic Light, Alexandria & Vienna, Virginia, Sheridan Books, Inc., 2010, 278 pages, hardbound, hundreds of illustrations, ISBN: 978-0-615-35699-0 available on the Internet from $21.59, new, $15.99 used.

Mackey’s An Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, Morals and Dogma, and the like make up the introductory books of many a Masonic library. Those who decide that they will travel a little aside the common path in Masonic literature often find themselves in some strange and not-so-accurate or well-researched territory. This is especially true for those who hear words like Hermeticism, Rosicrucianism, Enlightenment-Era philosophy. It would seem, unfortunately, that much has been written and very little has been said.

Many have waited to have an introductory textbook to such topics by a Mason well able to communicate. Well, wait no longer. Wor. Bros. Wood and Mavrov have created a written and visual journey that fits this bill with their book. Bro. Wood is the Director of Education for Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22, and his educational approach and deep love for Masonry show through in his work.

It reminded me of Kirk MacNuIty’s Freemasonry: Symbols, Secrets, Significance in the way that art is very much part of the experience of this book. For this reason, I would love to see a version of the book come out in which the art was in full color and the pages heavy and glossy. The layout of the book takes a little adjusting to, but forces the reader to enjoy both the well carved written word and the presentation of Masonic art. (Guest review by Brother Cliff Porter, 32°, KCCH—I second the opinion, it’s a fun and enlightening book to read. J.T.)

Lawday, David, The Giant of the French Revolution: Danton, A Life, New York: Grove Press, 2009, hardbound, 294 pages, illustrations, ISBN 978-0-8021-1933-9 cover price $27.50, available on the Internet, new and used, from $3.95.

Wow, what a book! Lawday, a highly respected writer, gives us a tour of the French Revolution which is both terrifying and compelling. But the reason I especially recommend this book is that it gives information I had not seen before on the role of Freemasonry in the Revolution. I’ve seen speculation before, but few facts; I had not even known that Danton was a member of the Craft. The book reads like an adventure novel, and if you have an interest in how Freemasonry has interacted with western history and culture you will want to add this to your library.

Stewart, Bro. Greg, 32°, Masonic Traveler: Essays and Commentary, Encino, California: www.FreemasonInformation.com, 2010, softbound, 184 pages, illustrations, ISBN 978-0-615-35918-2, available on the Internet from $13.49, new.

This is a great little book. A non-Mason friend saw it on my table and asked to borrow it. He brought it back two days later, asked some questions, and told me he was going to petition the lodge in his home town. I enjoyed all the essays in the book, but especially XVII, on the E.A. Tracingboard. I am a bit more optimistic (or perhaps a bit more in denial) than Bro. Stewart when it comes to the future of the fraternity, but no one can deny his essays are thought-provoking and powerful.

Beyer, Thomas R., Jr., 33 Keys to Unlocking the Lost Symbol, New York: Newmarket Press, 2010, softbound, 174 pages, illustrations, ISBN 978-1-55704-919-3 cover price $14.95, available on the Internet, new and used, from $1.66

My only complaint with this book is that it can make one feel like an idiot. I loved Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol, and rather smugly thought I did a good job of reading it. Talk about a haughty spirit going before destruction! Prof. Beyer has brought the skills of a scholar to finding the clues in the novel, and while his book reads like a novel itself, it is chock-full of information and ideas I missed completely. You can learn a lot from this book, not just about Brown’s novel, but about the ancient wisdom tradition. More than that, it’s just good fun to read.

And keep in mind that a great source for holiday presents is the store at the Supreme Council, 33°, S.J., U.S.A., web site. Please visit www.scottishritestore.org and you will find books, clothing, jewelry, and many different gift ideas. Happy hunting! See you next year.