The Independent Magazine for Freemasons
By: Richard A. Crane
The author is, by his own confession, not a historian (p.39) but this is not a book about history. He holds a Master’s degree in religious philosophy; nonetheless, his book is easy to read and to understand. It is an unusual Masonic book in that it deals with the philosophy and theology of the Craft and Royal Arch, concentrating mainly on the Royal Arch. It is a collection of papers and addresses and, as a result, there is a good deal of repetition. It does, however, contain some real gems, which ought not to be missed. It is the fruit of a great deal of deep and illuminating thought about both the Craft and Royal Arch. Furthermore, the author encourages his readers to go on to pursue their own lines of thought on the subjects he introduces.
The book is divided into three parts dealing with: Craft matters; Royal Arch matters; and Philosophical matters. The first three papers are not really Masonic but the fourth, ‘So, What is Freemasonry?’ is an excellent introduction to the author’s clear and careful interpretation of our rituals and ceremonies. Next is his Prestonian Lecture for the year 2000 (‘…for therein you will be taught…’), which is a jewel; not easy to find eighteen years after its delivery – largely because the fifth volume of The Collected Prestonian Lectures has still not seen the light of day. It is a masterful example of rigorous and logical thought applied to the ceremonies of the Craft and taken slowly, step by step.
The real meat of the book is the middle section, devoted to the Royal Arch. As he says (p.39): ‘…there has been a deplorably small amount of serious research into the Royal Arch’ and as a result the newly exalted Companion has found it very difficult to gain any guidance in his efforts to interpret its ceremonies. Many, if not most, members of the Royal Arch find it difficult to relate the Exaltation ceremony to the Degrees of the Craft and that it is much more difficult to interpret than the Craft. This book, however, goes a long way towards assisting Royal Arch Masons, both old and new, in both of these endeavours.
The final section includes a paper presented to Quatuor Coronati Lodge (No.2076) in May 2002 (‘That Most Interesting of All Human Studies…’) and another (‘The Spiritual Message of the Royal Arch’) given to the Bristol Masonic Society in April 2005. Both of these are accompanied by the discussions which followed their delivery. It is always a pleasure to be given the opportunity to benefit from the impressions and reactions of members of the audiences attending such meetings. It would be of enormous value if such discussions could be recorded more often; it is not difficult to arrange in the modern world.
I would have liked to see an illustration to accompany the paper on the Royal Ach Tracing Board. After all, most Royal Arch Chapters do not use such a board and many Companions may never have seen one. Also the quality of the image of the four Cardinal Virtues at the four corners of the Grand Temple ceiling is so poor as to make it almost worthless. There is a curious change of page layout for the sixth paper, which has resulted in a lot of line spacing errors, so was presumably caused by a mistake in word-processing. Otherwise it is a book, which is difficult to fault.
The volume ends as it began with a non-Masonic paper, thus placing the deeper consideration of Freemasonry in its proper context of a wider philosophical and theological approach to life. As the author says (p.102): ‘With all the daily problems of just existing in this world it is no wonder that we blot out the chance of receiving God’s Revelation of Himself.’
Membership of our Order should, however, help Freemasons to see through the veil of this material world and thus gain a glimpse of their relationship to the Almighty.
I would strongly recommend the purchase of this book to anyone who considers himself to be a thinking Freemason. After all, that is what ‘Speculative Masons’ are supposed to do – think about what the rituals and ceremonies of Freemasonry are trying to teach them.
Reviewer: A.R. (Tony) Baker
Hamilton House Publishing Ltd, Rochester upon Medway, Kent (2017)
Paperback, 183 pages with five illustrations