The Complete Idiot's Guide to Freemasonry
S. Brent Morris, Ph.D.
When Chris Hodapp wrote Freemasons for Dummies, I thought the market had been cornered on simplified, understandable explanations of a complicated organization with over three centuries of history. I've been proven wrong - and, frankly, should have known better. If anyone can create a meaningful work about the fraternity, it has to be Brent Morris.
Let's first put aside the foolishness about the title: this is NOT a book for Idiots - nor are any of the books in the 'Dummies' or 'Idiot's' series for those who are dolts. They are, rather, works that provide basic facts in a building-block fashion allowing a reader to pick and choose parts that are of interest and advance their knowledge in a rational and reasonable way. When these series' concentrated on computer books, they were FAR superior to the often confusing software manuals provided by the manufacturer. They long ago broadened their conceptual basis to nearly everything. There are Dummies/Idiot's books about religions, golf, wine, gambling, and nearly every aspect of humankind. Some are far better than others but it all comes down to the authors involved. For this one, they couldn't have chosen better.
A man with credentials' galore including service as the Master of the oldest Masonic research lodge in the world, he has a very unique ability to make the most complex seem approachable. Although I thought I'd just skim through pieces that were of interest, after a couple of those 'browsings', I decided to start at the beginning - and I read right through to the end, amazed at the things I was learning in the process. Having been a Mason for many years, being a member of a dozen Masonic research lodges, and considering myself pretty well read on the topic of Freemasonry, I was surprised to find the nooks and crannies that I hadn't poked into.
This book has all sorts of things that will appeal: lengthy lists of great websites (ours is included: thanks, Brent - but no 'free pass' on this review! You earned every bit of my good words....), descriptions of the major and MANY of the minor appendant and concordant bodies that swirl around the fraternity, and even pictures and explanations of the various pins that one will find on lapels of Masons. I left the room to go to the bathroom and a family member saw a picture of the fork and knife tie clip. After an hour and popping some popcorn to provide a tempting aroma, I was able to wrest the book back! It really is that kind of great reading....
Dr. Morris has provided 'just enough' information on just about everything to make you finish this book feeling both learned and satisfied. It's the kind of thing that these series were designed to do: give a reader the feeling that they now at least had the basic subject knowledge they'd sought and could apply it in any venue.
I'd recommend this book as a gift to those who've just joined but also to those who're only thinking about it. The lore and the anti-Masonic issues are presented quite well, the latter certainly being no surprise to this reviewer as Dr. Morris co-authored one of the two seminal works on the topic of Anti-Masonry during the last century. I'd also recommend this book to ANY Mason, regardless of their present position in the Craft. It might stimulate an inactive member to resume going to meetings and it could certainly help broaden the understanding of current (or past or future) Grand Lodge officers, particularly those who might think they 'know it all'. Honestly, if you don't learn at least three or more things from reading this book, no matter how expert you are on the subject of Freemasonry, you've simply not read it all.
Without qualification, I would recommend this book to any and all. It's a 'keeper', for sure!
I'd be remiss if I didn't add that you might also want to consider getting Brent's book Magic Tricks, Card Shuffling and Dynamic Computer Memories. You might learn something from a guy who has a couple of doctoral degrees in mathematics - and amaze your friends as well!
Lest anyone think that this review is a 'puff
piece' because I know Brent (only by e-mail, though, as we've never physically
been in the same place at the same time), let it be known far and wide that for
YEARS this man has been promising me he'd treat me to a lunch but I am STILL
waiting to collect! So THERE!
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