book review – Whence Come You 

As with all personal ‘memoirs’ regarding the journey of Freemasonry, to get the most out of someone else’s experiences, the reader should preferably suspend (not abandon) their own opinions, preconceptions or beliefs.

This is something that the author mentions almost immediately and his understanding that this is a unique path for each member is paramount but the candour in which he reveals his own experience is refreshing.

Ben Zion’s passion for Freemasonry and his enthusiasm to share the deeper aspects of the Craft are tangible, however, he is more than aware that this is ‘his’ journey, and  the wisdom contained in the book is merely a roadmap and not set in stone.

He states that:

‘…the purpose of this book is not to sell Masonry to the non-Masonic world, but rather to try and assist the stirring and inquisitive Mason in finding what it is he may be looking for, by taking the seeker through a collection of personal thoughts on various topics as I happened to progress along the path towards Mastership.

Initially, when writing about the following various Masonic topics, I was somewhat hesitant and even reluctant to provide either a biographical account of my own personal journey from darkness to light, or my own interpretation on various topics and aspects of the Craft, for the reason that everyone has their own path to walk, their own bumps in the road, their own lessons to learn and their own veils to lift; and quite how an individual Brother interprets the allegory and symbolism is often unique to him and invariably distinct from anyone else.’

The message of the book is essentially one of Freemasonry being unequivocally esoteric – spiritual – and that is something that many Masons may balk at but it is a topic that needs discussing rationally.

The author states that;

‘a lot of deeply enquiring Masons tend to leave the fraternity feeling despondent about not only the apathy of the Masonic elite, but the lack of any guidance concerning the true meaning of the ritual along with the absence of any cooperative speculative learning.’

This is not a new gripe, it is something that has been discussed on many an occasion in and out of the lodge; the only conclusion is that Freemasonry is different for each member and for many that predominantly includes the charitable and social aspects above all else.

However, that does leave a lot of the more ‘spiritual’ or ‘esoteric’ Masons feeling as if they are the circle that cannot be squared in ‘regular’ Freemasonry.

Ben continues with the premise that;

‘…maybe, that there would be fewer absconders and more applicants were there to be some public acknowledgement by Grand Lodges to the effect that, for the more inquisitive and adventurous of candidates, Masonry offers a smorgasbord of subjects for esoteric enquiry’. 

However, this thorny subject of spirituality within Masonry had already been addressed by the United Grand Lodge of England in 2011, when the Deputy Grand Master declared that;

‘Freemasonry itself, as we all know, is neither a substitute for nor an alternative to religion. It certainly does not deal in spirituality…’

It was that last sentence that was enough to inflame the passionate hearts of those with a leaning towards the more esoteric side of Freemasonry – subsequently quite a few resignations ensued from some very distinguished brethren, many of whom found a home within Co-Masonry and/or the more ‘liberal’ or continental lodges in Europe.

In ‘Whence Come You’, the author offers us his own experience of ‘whence he came’. His early years echo those of many young men, when he began to feel a need for purpose in his life. 

This led to his first experiences of Freemasonry, his initiation and progression through the rest of the degrees.

He reflects on his journey, dissecting and examining the lessons along the way; from the basic (and most obvious) visual aspects of the rituals (the mode of preparation, the furniture of the lodge, the brethren etc.,) to the more complex symbolism and deeper aspects of the Craft, and every brother’s progression through the process of smoothing the ashlar.

So, for those who feel there is far more to Masonry than the festive board, charity raffle or the rote learning of ritual, this book may well offer more enlightenment than you will garner from lodge.

That is not to say that these more mundane matters should be sneered at or shunned, but that there is a place for everyone within Freemasonry – you just need to be able to find your own fertile ground and keep up the maintenance.

Ben Zion’s pathway will not be for everyone – but therein lies the skill and maturity in being able to perceive, understand and acknowledge the opinions and beliefs of others, and after all, isn’t that a vitally important keystone in the all-encompassing arch of Freemasonry?

Review by: Philippa Lee, Editor

Whence Come You

By: Ben Zion

Esotericism and spirituality are two words seldom referred to about Freemasonry, and it is even more rare to find a book dedicated to this purpose. 

This is such a book. 

Ben Zion takes the reader on a personal journey of self-discovery, describing with the help of Masonic imagery and symbolism how any Mason, if earnest in his intentions and pure of heart, can become awakened by contemplation and true speculation upon the ritual, with a particular emphasis on shifting one’s conscious perspective.

In addition, throughout this book he interweaves the fundamental principles of the Eastern school of Hindu Philosophy (Advaita Vedanta) with Judeo/Christian mysticism, finding synergy between the two worlds and showing us all along that there is embedded within all religions but one Truth, one origin, and one destination.

Upon finishing this book, the reader will be instilled with a wealth of new understanding, not only about the mysteries underpinning the Craft ritual, but about himself as a man, a Mason, and a once lost soul seeking return to his Native Land.

This book is a must read for all Masons worldwide, and highly recommended for anyone wanting to embark upon a journey of self-discovery.

 

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