Fantasist's Scroll

Fun, Fiction and Strange Things from the Desk of the Fantasist.

9/30/2004

Review: The Freemasons: A History of the World’s Most Powerful Secret Society

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

I finished The Freemasons: A History of the World’s Most Powerful Secret Society by Jasper Ridleylast week.

As a Freemason myself, I found the book quite interesting. First of all, it looks at masonic history from the perspective of a what is known and concrete, not with any real speculation at all. It’s a very, very scholarly work which included a significant bibliography.
Secondly, it was written by a non-Mason. While that, in itself, is not remarkable, what is special about that is that the author maintains an even-handed look at masonic history. He sticks to the facts and was actually quite enlightening in many areas, at least to me.
Thirdly, the book covers quite a bit of history, but it completely discounts the claims that some authors have made regarding Freemasonry being descended from the Knights Templar. This is, oddly enough, unusual these days. It seems like the majority of books lean the other way. Jasper Ridley, though, maintains that the simplest explanation is, in fact, correct. That the story we’re told from the Grand Lodge is right. Namely, that the Freemasons are an outgrowth and offshoot of the original working, or operative masons, who were essentially an early trade union.
Finally, as Mr. Ridley sums up at the end, he gives the Freemasons a fairly good endorsement, which we can surely use for a change!

If you have any interest at all in the history of Freemasonry, this is an excellent place to start. I wish I’d read it first, before all the others that I’ve gotten into this past year or so. But, if you’ve only a passing interest, there are other, easier books to read. As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, this is a rather scholarly work.

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