"To preserve the reputation of the Fraternity unsullied must be your constant care."


Friday, September 02, 2016

Southern Cal Research Lodge's Top Masonic Book List

It was great to receive a copy of the newly formatted Fraternal Review, the monthly publication of the Southern California Research Lodge. The new magazine is a beautifully designed publication, now edited by Brothers C. Douglas Russell and Dago Rodriguez, and art directed by Johnny Arias.

Back when I first joined the SCRL 15 years ago, the monthly mailing was a stack of Xeroxed pages, jammed with Masonic news, articles, and papers collected from all over the country. What it lacked in style, it more than made up for in content. It was a labor of love, packed up each month by volunteers, and fondly put together by the indefatigable Brothers Ralph Herbold and Norm Leeper. Sadly, Ralph passed away in 2009.

Ralph became a good friend over the years, and was an early admirer of Freemasons For Dummies, reviewing it shortly after it was first published in 2005.  He became a true champion of the book, and would always call me or drop me a letter or email to excitedly tell me every time the SCRL sold another thousand copies. Shortly afterwards, the Grand Lodge of California put it on their recommended reading list for new Masons, and it remains one of just three books listed in their Entered Apprentice Candidate Guide. The quick reception of the book by those brethren was extraordinarily humbling and gratifying, and I have never forgotten their kind support. 

So, it was equally gratifying to discover that the September  2016 issue of Fraternal Review features a list of the "Top Masonic Books," as voted by the actual membership of the SCRL, and that the #2 book on the list of 25 is, in fact, Freemasons For Dummies.  

Here is the complete list:

  1. Born in Blood by John J. Robinson
  2. Freemasons For Dummies by Christopher L. Hodapp
  3. Morals & Dogma by Albert Pike, annotated by Arturo De Hoyos
  4. The Craft and Its Symbols by Allen E. Roberts
  5. Observing the Craft by Andrew Hammer
  6. The Builders by Joseph Fort Newton
  7. The Meaning of Masonry by Walter L. Wilmshurst
  8. A Pilgrim's Path by John J. Robinson
  9. The Mason's Words by Robert G. Davis
  10. The Origins of Freemasonry: Scotland's Century by David Stevenson
  11. A Bridge To Light by Rex R. Hutchens
  12. American Freemasons by Mark A. Tabbert
  13. Esoterika by Albert Pike
  14. The Better Angels of Our Nature by Michael Halleran
  15. The Lost Keys of Freemasonry by Manly P. Hall
  16. Coil's Masonic Encyclopedia by Henry Wilson Coil
  17. Dungeon, Fire, and Sword by John J. Robinson
  18. The Complete Idiot's Guide To Freemasonry by S. Brent Morris
  19. The Freemasons by Jasper Ridley
  20. Sworn In Secret: Freemasonry and the Knights Templar by Sanford Holst
  21. Freemasonry: A Journey Through Ritual and Symbol by W. Kirk McNulty
  22. Freemasons Guide and Compendium by Bernard Jones
  23. The Temple and the Lodge by Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh
  24. The Secret Teachings of All Ages by Manley P. Hall
  25. The Way of the Craftsman by W. Kirk McNulty
While it is tantalizing to be so close to the top of the list, I certainly can't argue with Born In Blood being #1. Sure, Robinson's theory of the Templars morphing into the Freemasons has been mostly disparaged and debunked by scholars. Bob Cooper's The Rosslyn Hoax pretty much dismantles the whole Templar origin theory from top to bottom. And when he was asked why his books didn't contain footnotes, references, or bibliographies, Robinson replied, "I'm not a historian, I'm just an old Kentucky storyteller." 

But despite all of that, his was the first book of any length I read about the fraternity before I joined, and that experience has been repeated by tens of thousands of men ever since its original publication.  Robinson certainly spun a good yarn and made a lot of intriguing observations that have captivated an awful lot of brethren, myself included. The only two other books he wrote in his life are also on the SCRL list, which attests to his talents and insights. So, I can't really be too disappointed by being beaten out by it. 

In truth, there's no disappointment anyway, because being included on such an august list at all is an honor, more especially because it was made by Masons themselves. So, many, many thanks to all those members who voted in the survey who continue to find my book worthwhile.

One of the biggest perks of membership in the Southern California Research Lodge is their program that provides deep, deep discounts on Masonic books. For information on how to join the SCRL, visit their website HERE.

H/T Nathan Brindle

1 comment:

  1. Very cool Masonic list. Read 15 of them. Nice to see California Masons are contributing alot towards our Masonic education. Thanks to the efforts of some of our Masonic Research Societies, for example; The Masonic Society, The Philalethes Society, The Phylaxis (Prince Hall) Society..etc, including the excellent leadership of our educators within the York and Scottish Rites, Freemasonry is today a real "HALL of Learning".

    Despite all the problems in the world, Freemasonry is still remaining steadfast to her purpose of teaching: Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth.

    Bright: "A Mason is said to be "bright" who is well acquainted with the ritual, the forms of opening and closing, and the ceremonies of initiation. This expression does not, however, in its technical sense, appear to include the superior knowledge of the history and science of the institution, and many bright Masons are therefore not necessarily learned Masons, and on the contrary some learned Masons are not well versed in the exact phraseology of the ritual. The one knowledge depends on a retentive memory, the other is derived from deep research. -From a "Lexicon of Freemasonry" by Albert G. Mackey, 33*


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