A Reading List for New Freemasons
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For the Entered Apprentice
The new Entered Apprentice faces an overwhelming amount of information about Freemasonry, and unfortunately a lot of it is bad. We have centuries of legendary histories, dumb mythology, and wishful thinking that completely buries the legitimate, real Freemasonry. I feel that it is helpful for a new EA to get a grounding in the basics of Freemasonry and its history while remembering to focus on the Candidate's Lecture and vital memory work.
- The Freemasons: A History of the World's Most Powerful Secret Society by Jasper Ridley (Arcade Publishing, 1999)
- This book focuses on real history for a modern audience, and will give you the basics of what we know about Freemasonry. There are no fanciful legends of the Knights Templar or Atlantis, just real, proveable history. It is probably the most contemporary and relatable history of Freemasonry currently available.
- The Origins of Freemasonry: Scotland's Century 1590-1710 by David Stevenson (Cambridge University Press, 1988)
- Stevenson finds the actual historical roots of modern Freemasonry, and it does a convincing job. It's written for historians, so it's a little more dense and dry, but it lays the foundation for some of the most incredible stuff we know about the Craft – including the transformative personal growth so many of us are looking for.
- The Craft and Its Symbols: Opening the Door to Masonic Symbolism by Allen E. Roberts (Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Co, 1974)
- This is a basic, straightforward introduction to Masonic symbolism. Much of the meat of the book is gleaned directly from our lectures and ritual.
- Freemasonry: A Journey Through Ritual and Symbol by W. Kirk MacNulty (Thames & Hudson, 1991)
- This beautiful volume is eye-candy
for the Freemason. It's filled with classical and modern Masonic artwork, and as a bonus, it was written by noted Masonic scholar
- Kirk MacNulty. Even reading this beautiful book is good for you.
- The Meaning of Masonry by W.L. Wilmshurst (Revised edition, Plumbstone, 2007)
- Every new Entered Apprentice is chomping at the bit for the esoteric innards of Freemasonry. Start here. Wilmshurst is a classic, and his approach to Freemasonry is both beautiful and moving.
- The Builders: A Story and Study of Masonry by Joseph Fort Newton (George H. Doran, 1914)
- Sometimes overlooked, Newton's approach to the meaning of Freemasonry is deep and timeless. Since it's out of copyright, this book is widely available online.
For the Fellowcraft
The Fellowcraft should hopefully have a good foundation in the symbolism and history of the Craft, because beginning in this degree, that knowledge is put to use. The FC degree encourages its candidates to begin practicing Freemasonry, both in exploring the world around them and in improving their own minds and spirits.
- Secret Societies in America: Foundational Studies of Fraternalism ed. William D. Moore and Mark A. Tabbert (Cornernstone, 2011)
- This book helps you understand what Freemasonry means to America. Why does Freemasonry seem to be intertwined in so many American institutions? Why are there fraternal buildings crumbling in every small town? What is your place in modern Freemasonry and fraternal America? Most importantly, why can't Freemasons agree on whether or not we're a secret society? (Hint: after reading this and understanding our history, you'll agree that we are.)
- The Mason's Words: The History and Evolution of the American Masonic Ritual by Robert G. Davis (Building Stone, 2013)
- Everybody keeps talking about how old and mysterious our ritual is, but is it really? Davis has dug through modern Masonic history to find out exactly where our ritual is from and why it ended up the way it has. The mind-blowing thing about this book is it dispells many falsehoods that Masons tell each other every day.
- The Better Angels of Our Nature: Freemasonry in the American Civil War by Michael A. Halleran (University of Alabama Press, 2010)
- Halleran shows us what a Masonic history book should be like: honest, factual, and rich in detail. This book explores Freemasonry during the most troubling time in American history. Books like this keep us honest as we become better Masons.
- Philosophy: The Basics by Nigel Warburton (Routledge)
- Philosophy is important to understanding Freemasonry. The various editions of this book do an excellent job of teaching the reader how to discuss many of the central topics in philosophy. This well help when you get into the philosophical weeds later on!
- The Story of Philosophy: The Lives and Opinions of the World's Greatest Philosophers by Will Durant (Pocket, 1953)
- Widely available as a trade paperback, this breaks down philosophy into different eras, concentrating on specific philosophers and the concepts they wrestled with.
- Solomon's Memory Palace: A Freemason's Guide to the Ancient Art of Memoria Verborum by Bob W. Lingerfelt (Independently published, 2018)
- This book is horribly edited and the text block is as ugly as it can get, but it's cheap and the lessons are solid. Lingerfelt has published the first in hopefully many manuals on using the Art of Memory as a Freemason. Fellowcrafts should become versed in this art – it is one of Freemasonry's most important spiritual practices and the basis of everything else you will learn as a Mason.
- Benjamin Franklin's The Art of Virtue: His Formula for Successful Living ed. George L. Rogers (ChoiceSkills, 2011)
- While Freemasonry encourages us to become better and more virtuous, it doesn't tell us exactly how. Benjamin Franklin did, in fact, lay out a method for improving virtue in his autobiography. Rogers has done a great job compiling and annotating Franklin's art of virtue.
For the Master Mason
The depths of the fountain of knowledge are made available to the Master Mason. By the third degree, the initiate should be ready to tackle broader subjects and explore the rich inner world he has glimpsed in his degrees. These books sometimes explore the guts of Freemasonry, and sometimes stretch beyond it, but always they work to enrich the mind of the seeker.
- The Golden Builders: Alchemists, Rosicrucians, and the First Freemasons by Tobias Churton (Weiser, 2005)
- There is a lot of really unusual stuff in Freemasonry's history. Our early influences are woven throughout the rich tapestry of the Western Mystery Tradition. This book explores pre-Masonic movements that probably shaped the Craft's earliest lodges and beliefs.
- The Theosophical Enlightenment by Joscelyn Godwin (SUNY Press, 1994)
- Godwin's masterpiece of the religious revival in the West looks at how spirituality and religion exploded into new levels of complexity and depth during the last few centuries. Freemasonry is a living part of this revival, and this book will explore many names and topics which are familiar to the curious brother.
- Neoplatonic Philosophy: Introductory Readings trans. John Dillon and Lloyd P. Gerson (Hackett, 2004)
- Freemasonry was strongly influenced by Neoplatonism. It is an unusual school of philosophy, and the best way to get started is to go back to the original authors. This book is probably best explored as a group.
- The Spirit of Masonry by William Hutchinson (1775)
- This is a collection of classic, essential Masonic orations from the 18th century. Any Mason looking to explore the philosophy of the Craft needs to understand what our forefathers were thinking when they designed our ritual and symbols. It is easy to find free copies of this book online – it is long out of copyright.
- Contemplative Masonry: Basic Applications of Mindfulness, Meditation, and Imagery for the Craft by C.R. Dunning (Stone Guild, 2017)
- This is the premier book for developing the inner spiritual work of Freemasonry. Dunning has distilled decades of experience into a system of exercises specifically for building the Inner Temple our degrees speak of. This book is essential to the Freemason's spiritual understanding of the work of the Craft.
An abridged version of this list was published in the June 2018 issue of the Oregon Masonic News.
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