Some cool books I learned about…

ROSE1This past week,  some fellow Co-Masons told me about some interesting books I thought I would share…with those who were not “there.”

The Hermetic Code in DNA: The Sacred Principles in the Ordering of the Universe – This first book is written by Michael Hayes and you can see it on Amazon on the link above. It’s not a clean-cut read and it can be very difficult to piece together what he’s trying to say in places. However, the concept overall is intriguing and very much Pythagorean. While not exactly “Masonic,” anyone who is familiar with some of the esoteric side of Freemasonry will enjoy reading this book. It has inspired me to continue my curiosity regarding music, God, and the mysteries of the universe. This same author wrote another book, now out of print, called Infinite Harmony. I’m guessing it’s along the same lines as this one; if anyone out there has read it, let me know.

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Let’s have a little fun, shall we?

Have you seen the cover of the new Dan Brown book? The book is called “The Lost Symbol” and the cover contains many Masonic references. The book will be released on September 15, 2009 and the US version contains allusions to the symbols of the 33rd Degree of Scottish Rite Masonry. Incidenally, 09/15/09 = 33 (we won’t tell him it’s technically 35 if you include the full year, shall we?)

The plot of the book is ostensibly related to Freemasonry and Washington DC. The rest is shut up tight with the publisher. Here’s Dan Brown’s Facebook page for an ongoing commentary: .

Here’s a fun little widget to count down the time until the book is released. I expect we’ll be seeing a lot of Masonic activity in the days to come.

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At the Sign of the Square and Compasses

Can all of you tell I’m on a review roll? I decided that since I’ve been getting a lot of questions on the side about “what is good to read?” in Masonic terms, I figured I would put my favorites out there.

This one, by Geoffrey Hodson, is not recent but has been recently released again by Kessingers. Quest Books is the original publisher from Wheaton, Ill. The copy that I have and am reviewing is one of the originals with the blue cover shown here, published in 1976.

Geoffrey Hodson was a Co-Mason;he was a member of Le Droit Humaine in the mid-20th century. He was born in 1883 and lived until 1993, with the body of his written work covering the early part of the 20th century. This book covers a lot of interesting esoteric detail in all three degrees with some additional metaphysical additions at the end. It will be apparent to the AF&AM or F&AM Mason that this is not your father’s Masonry. Many of the things he discusses – devas, angels, energies, and colors – are not freely and usually discussed in AF&AM masonic circles.

I say usually because I have spoken to many Masons of those orders who are now turning that way, looking into the symbolism and perhaps more ancient forms of the Craft’s origins. Hodson’s book is rich with his own descriptions of symbols, officers, and basic ritual without being too over-the-top.

There is one section of the book that I have some difficulty assimilating. In the end of the book, he adds in many “advanced” thoughts. He discusses devas and elementals associated with the initiatory process – their appearance, reason for being there, etc. For me, a more pragmatic Freemason, this really wasn’t “me.” While beautifully and plainly written, I found the concepts probably a little too much for some people. Much of his thoughts on these matters probably stem from his Theosophical roots. He spent over 70 years in the organization and was a leading writer and speaker on all topics Theosophical.

While I and many Masons I know do not come from a Theosophical background, I think this is a very valuable work for the Co-Mason to read. It is always a treat for a Co-Mason to find a work that relates to a deeper symbolic reading of our rituals; it’s even more of a treat when it is our own ritual.

The original book is not cheap. In that form, it’s out of print and is currently selling for anywhere from $129 to $150 in very good condition. Kessinger’s version is a copy of the out of print version and is cheaper. While I’m not personally fond of Kessinger’s books, it is a way for someone to read this interesting treatise without selling a kidney to do so.

Freemasons for Dummies

This book has received a good deal of “air time” with people who have contacted me regarding Freemasonry and Co-Masonry, so I thought I would review the book here, for Freemasons and non-Freemasons alike.

This book, on the surface, may be a little hard for Masons to swallow. I looked at it and scoffed at it myself; Masonry, as all Masons know, is an experiential path – you can’t actually learn about Masonry’s true nature unless you step inside. Having said that, I think that many people who are looking for Masonry figure that this, like almost all the other “Dummies” books is a good first step to seeing what they might be getting themselves into.

The book does a decent job of describing, in the most basic sense, where Freemasonry came from. Christopher Hodapp, the author, is an Ancient Free and Accepted Mason (this is the all-male fraternity) and travels and writes for his Lodge and order. It’s a well-done book with some very easy to read text and nothing really “dry” about it. He makes Freemasonry come alive without exposing those elements which are truly to be experienced by the new initiate. Freemasonry, being an initiatory school, relies on that secrecy to open the mind of the candidate and let them find their path on their own. Books which expose secrets and rituals do nothing for the good of the order and take away, in some way, from the experience of the candidate. It’s a shame that so many books have to do this. Freemasons for Dummies, however, imparts its knowledge with candor and fun while retaining its integrity.

Most enjoyable is his history and discussions of what the various aspects of the orders show their members. His discussion of some of the symbols commonly used by Masons is enlightening and enjoyable. Again, he does a very good job of explaining these things without giving away details of their use in ritual. His discussion of how and why Freemasons have been criticized over the ages is particularly well-done.

My one criticism about it is the lack of available information regarding “other” Freemasonry bodies. While he gives token reference to Order of the Eastern Star (an affiliated male/female group associated with the AF&AM) and to Co-Masonry in general, his discussion about some differentiation would have served these other bodies a little better. While there has always been friction, for lack of a better word, between the groups, we’ve been entering an age were we are all recognizing the need to acknowledge the “path” of the others. By not including them in a little more detail, he does a disjustice to that movement of cooperation.

However, the fact that he actually does mention women-only and co-masonry, as well as Prince Hall and other bodies, is a step in the right direction. If I was coming into Freemasonry now, as opposed to 13 years ago, I would probably have picked this book up prior to joining. Would I recommend it? I would if you were interested in learning more about how and why Freemasons exist in the world. This book is a good first step into opening up communication between non-Masons and Freemasons as well. It also gives current Masons a good chuckle as we look at our own rituals and cultural nature.