By James T. Tresner II, Book Review Editor
*And the Mason said, “I’m not gonna play with you guys any more; you’re ANIMALS.”
I have a certain weakness for humor, and Masonic humor in particular. There is a lot on the Internet (Google “Masonic humor “and see) and there are several books on the topic. I’ve been writing on a humorous book tentatively titled Bad Mason, Baad Mason! for years and may even look for a publisher one of these days.
Perhaps the reason I enjoy humor so much is that it’s a great way of teaching. Also, it gives a sense of perspective matched by few other things. Laughter can disarm a situation quickly and can even let us look at our own foibles with less anger and less shame.
And there is grace in that.
Some of the books on Masonic humor are relatively new, others have grown old in service to the Craft, but recently-made Masons may not be aware of them. It is hard to review a book of humor without giving away the punch lines, so I really cannot tell you much about the contents; but I can tell you these books will help pass a whimsical afternoon, in a world which has far too little whimsy. Here are some of my favorites.
Pollard, Bro. Stewart M. L., Tied to Masonic Apron Strings, Richmond, Va.: Macoy Publishing, 1991, softbound, illustrations, ISBN 0880-535-96. New and used from about $4 on the Internet. Some copies of the earlier hardbound edition can also be found.
First published in the late 1960s, this venerable collection contains much that is truly delightful. Cartoons and anecdotes will keep you smiling. Visit several Internet sites. I found this book ranging from $4 to $86!
The following books are published by Lewis Masonic. It’s always worth checking the Internet at large, but the best prices are often at the publisher’s web site. Make sure you go to the American site www.atlasbooks.com/lewismasonic/humor.htm to get prices and shipping in dollars.
Bright, Bro. Jack, Masonic Humour, Lewis Masonic, 2008, softbound, 88 pages, ISBN-13 978-0-85318-301-3. Available on the Internet at about $17.
As the spelling of the title will tell you, the book comes from the English Masonic experience, but Americans will have no trouble identifying with the situations and anecdotes. There are several good short bits here which can be useful in making a point while speaking, and it is simply fun to read as well.
Bright, Bro. Jack, More Jokes for Toasts, Lewis Masonic, 2004, softbound 96 pages, ISBN-13 978-0-85318-236-8. Available on the Internet for around $17.
Table lodges with their attendant toasts are just starting to grow in popularity in America, and in only a few places are the toasts anything more than the formal recitation of ritualized words. But “the world at large hath wit,” and in most countries a toast is accompanied with a jest or witticism which helps preserve the conviviality of the evening. This collection is not specifically Masonic, although they could easily be used or adapted to a Table Lodge, but they give an excellent feeling for the sort of humor which we seldom observe at American festive boards. And it’s a light-hearted read even if you never toast anything but bread.
Faulks, Bro. Martin, The Sign of a Mason, Lewis Masonic, 2008, hardbound, 80 pages, ISBN-13 978-0-85318-289-4. Available on the Internet for around $15.
With this book, you can not only feel good, you can do good. All the royalties go to the New Masonic Samaritan Fund which helps our English Brethren and their families when medical emergencies require financial assistance. The book is in fairly large type (literally a sight for sore eyes) and it is a collection of jokes and humorous stories. Truly good for a laugh!
Faulks, Bro. Martin, How Many Masons Does It Take to Change a Light Bulb?, Lewis Masonic
For some reason this is hard to find at a moment. You will have to search the Internet. But it is a fun read, and really does contain more than light bulb jokes. My favorite answer to that question is “We’ll probably never know, someone tried to ask the Grand Line, and they all fainted before the last three words could be spoken.”
Chadburn, Bro. Steve, The Festive Freemason, by the author, 2009, softbound, 100 pages, ISBN 1449981006, EAN-13 9781449981006. Available only on the Internet at Amazon.com or https://www.createspace.com/3419892 for $15.00.
This is just a great, fun book. Steve Chadburn is a professional cartoonist and a Freemasons, and he has brought his vocation and avocation together in this delightful book. He’s an English Mason, so some of the situations he satirizes will be unfamiliar to American Masons, but nearly every cartoon brought a smile to my face. In several places I thought to myself, “Oh, he’s a member of my lodge. How did Steve know about him?” Well, a good cartoonist can find the universal in any situation. Rigid ritualists and long-winded speakers are common conditions of Freemasonry, and Bro. Steve skewers them in a gentle, fun way. (Submitted by S. Brent Morris, 33°, Grand Cross)
And now for something completely different.
Cathcart, Thomas & Klein, Daniel, Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar . . .: Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes, London: Penguin Books, 2007, paperbound, 215 pages, illustrations, ISBN 978-0-14-311387-4 cover price $13.00, available in the Internet from around $9.00 also in hardbound edition, used, from about $4.
Cathcart, Thomas & Klein, Daniel, Heidegger and a Hippo Walk Through Those Pearly Gates: Using Philosophy (and Jokes!) To Explore Life, Death, the Afterlife, and Everything In Between, London: Viking Penguin, 2009, hardbound, 245 pages, illustrations, ISBN 978-0-670-02083-6 Cover price $19.95, available on the Internet, new and used, from about $10.00.
Cathcart, Thomas & Klein, Daniel, Aristotle and an Aardvark Go to Washington: Understanding Political Doublespeak Through Philosophy and Jokes, New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2007, hardbound, 191 pages, illustrations, ISBN 978-0-8109-9541-3 cover price $18.95, available on the Internet, new and used, from about $5.00
I don’t know how I missed these books when they first started appearing, but I curse myself for two years of life misspent. These are three of the best books I’ve ever read. Talk about using humor to teach. And you don’t stop laughing from the first.
Example; the note on the authors inside Plato and a Platypus: “Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein pursued the usual careers after majoring in philosophy at Harvard. Thomas worked with street gangs in Chicago and dropped in and out of various Divinity schools, Daniel wrote jokes for comedians, designed stunts for Candid Camera, and continues to pen thrillers. Each lives with his wife in New England.”
Or consider this dedication: “To the Memory of our Philosophical Grandfather Groucho Marx, who said ‘These are my principles; if you don’t like them, I have others.’”
These are truly wonderful books. Be warned that they can grate a little: the liberal bent of the authors does shine through, but it’s easy to allow for that, and this is the easiest course in logic and philosophy you are ever likely to find.
Davis, Bro. Robert G., 33°, GC, editor, Heredom, Volume 17, 2009, The Scottish Rite Research Society, 2009, hardbound, 255 pages Note: You can usually find copies of Heredom on the Internet at various prices, but the smart way to get it is to join the Scottish Rite Research Society.
When you join the SRRS, you get Heredom each year, four copies of The Plumbline, along with really great bonus books, and other goodies. Heredom contains some of the best Masonic research in the world, and it’s waiting for you.
Annual membership is available to any person interested in the history of Freemasonry or to any institution (lodge, library, etc.) for $51. Life Membership is available to individuals only for $900. You can join online or by calling Robin Hicks, SRRS Membership Manager at 1–800–SRMASON (776–2766), ext. 147, Monday-Thursday, 7 a.m.-5 p.m. EST
There are seven really good articles here and you will find something of interest, no matter what your interests are.
Yasha Beresiner, 20°, “Origins of Freemasonry: The Anglo-Scottish Zig Zag.”
Basilos E. (Bill) Tsingos, 32°, “Sherlock Holmes and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: Masons, Mystics, and Students of the Occult.”
Peter Paul Fuchs, 32°, “Incense to the Intellect: Implications of the Albert Pike Library.”
Robert G. Davis, 33°, GC, “Albert Pike, The Five Civilized Tribes, and Freemasonry.”
Timothy W. Hogan, 32°, KCCH, “The Hermetic Influence on Freemasonry.”
Grayson W. Mayfield III, P.M., “The Doctrine of Exclusive Territorial Jurisdiction.”
C. DeForrest Trexler, 33°, “The Degree Rituals of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction.”
As you can see, it is a rich field indeed. I love almost anything about Albert Pike, even if some modern writers tend to treat him with just a bit of condescension (and, admittedly, I tend to treat him with more than a little adulation); ritual fascinates me, and I’ve had the real privilege of watching Tim Hogan—a practicing alchemist—give lecture demonstrations on alchemy. So I could hardly lose with this issue. You can hardly lose, either.
And our Illustrious Brother S. Brent Morris, Ph.D., 33°, GC, found a great book to add to this review. I’ve already ordered a copy.
MacDonald, Michael C., Fraternal Regalia I: Knights Templar, available from the author by PayPal at www.internetsword.com or by personal check at PO Box 926. Boulder Creek. CA 95006 or at www.alibris.com or by calling 831-234-6861. Shipping is free via USPS media mail. $59.99.
When I reviewed The American Fraternal Sword some six months ago, I began with a simple one-word review, which applies equally to this book: Wow! Michael MacDonald is another obsessive collector who has documented a wonderful collection for the world to examine and admire. He has studied the regalia of American Knights Templar with the same attention to detail that reenactors give to their uniforms.
There are photographs of coats, chapeaux, aprons, caps, belts, buckles, medals, insignia, and swords. These fraternal uniforms attained their apogee of masculine style during the Victorian and Edwardian eras. While based on US service uniforms (the largest fraternal supplier, M. C. Lilly & Co., also supplied uniforms to the US government!), Knights Templar and other fraternal uniforms were embellished with sashes, embroidery, medals, and a certain dash that set them apart from mere military attire. This was the era of large civic parades in communities of all sizes, and the Masonic Templars were enthusiastic participants. The book includes photographs of parade units, foot and mounted, as well as souvenirs such as glassware, porcelain, jewelry, watch fobs, and accessories.
Whether you buy the book to fill in the gaps about your own collection, or just to dream what it would have been like to wield a sword in such lovely style, you will be delighted to add this book to your collection.(Submitted by S. Brent Morris, 33°, GC)