Lewis Masonic Book Review

The Genesis of Freemasonry

by David Harrison

It was only a few years ago that we celebrated the 300th anniversary of the founding of the first Masonic Grand Lodge in England in 1717.

Yet what we know of the ritual practices of Freemasonry at that period is very little indeed. We know something of the Grand Lodge itself and the people who constituted it, among whom is Dr Jean-Théophile Desaguliers, a Huguenot who had to flee France as a child after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes and who became the third Grand Master of the Grand Lodge.

David Harrison brings Desaguliers and others to life in this very engaging account of the early days of Freemasonry in England, but he does far more than that, leading us through an examination of the early degree system of the ritual, putting it all in the context of the first half of the 18thC, thereby enabling us to see Freemasonry of the age as part of the socio-political scene rather than an odd leisure pursuit of the nobility and aristocracy. Harrison also mentions the use made by James Anderson of the occult philosopher and alchemist John Dee as a resource for masonic history.

But it is Desaguliers who provides the fascinating element in Harrison’s work. We learn something of Desaguliers’ friendship with Newton and something of Desaguliers’ part in the transition from operative to speculative Freemasonry and the development of the ritual from its original bi-gradal system to the tri-gradal system we know today.

A well written work which will provide much background and new knowledge to our understanding of early Freemasonry.



Ornaments, Furniture and Jewels

by Julian Rees

One of the Emulation lectures tells us that the interior of a Freemason’s Lodge is composed of Ornaments, Furniture and Jewels. Are we to take these three elements at face value, and if so, what exactly are Ornaments, or Furniture, or indeed Jewels in a masonic context?

It becomes clear in this book that we are dealing with ornaments of symbolic and allegorical significance, such as the Blazing Star, the Square Pavement and the Tesselated Border.

Furniture in a masonic context includes books of the holy writ, and jewels are sometimes not concrete objects at all, but the summit of allegorical significance in a speculative sense. Architect’s implements may serve as speculative jewels, implements such as squares, levels, plumb rules, ashlars and tracing boards.

It is clear that there is a wealth of de-coding and interpretation to be undertaken. An entire chapter in the book is devoted to the power of allegory, and we are led on a journey accompanied by many masonic jewels and their relationship in some cases to architecture and art in the profane world.


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