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This is the sort of book I read when I'm tired because I think it's hilarious, but your mileage may vary.

Allow me to quote the title page: "By the Same Author-- The Eleusinian Mysteries-- Masonic Legends and Traditions-- Robert Burns and Freemasonry-- Roman Catholicism and Freemasonry, Woman and Freemasonry, etc., etc." Copyright 1924. If that gives you an idea.

Unfortunately, this is mostly a compilation of essays written by the author as speeches to be delivered on public occasions which wanted a Masonic speaker, which means that the essays are written for an audience of the world in general and consequently are a lot less cryptically allusive than one might want, although they are still pretty cryptic. The joy in this sort of thing is in watching the writer insist that the Masons are a) older than Christianity b) more universal than all religions c) totally not incompatible with and not a threat to Christianity and d) not to be considered a religion. Sometimes he insists all of these within the same paragraph. I got the strong general impression at some points in this book that the author did not wish Freemasonry to be considered a religion because it serves a Higher and More Moral Truth (than religion), which causes me to go hey wait a minute are you actually following your own rhetoric and do you understand your own train of thought?

Probably not. Bad rhetoric is a marvelous thing. Again, quotation here is the better part of valor:

"Freemasonry can never grow old. It is ever young. We relegate antiques to the show case and never make use of them, fearing to risk the possibility of damaging or destroying them. We gaze upon them with awe and admiration, but they are for ornament, not for use. We look at the warming pan, but we make use of the hot-water bottle, even preferring the modern India rubber variety to its older stone predecessor. Such is the tendency of life."

My personal hot-water bottle of obscurantist speechifying, whether made of the most modern India-rubber or not, was, I hope, punctured long ago by, as Sarah Caudwell puts it, the secateurs of a keen intellect.*

If most of the book were like this, I would actively recommend it, but the author does not often rise to these heights. Most of the book is simply a series of exhortations to read more, study more, be nicer to other Masons, not act like members of an elite secret society in public unless you have been specifically asked to do so on an occasion such as giving a speech, etcetera. There is a lovely sequence on the wartime classifications of men as fit for service or not and how this can be extended as a metaphor to cover, well, everything else in life; the author's tendency to draw illuminating anecdotes from pseudo-Buddhism and obscure Biblical corners does not blend well with his insistence that everyone be an A-1 man. But this segment lasts only five pages.

In short, I found the book entertaining, but not amazingly so, and it is sufficiently outdated that I suspect it does not have much to do with anything currently Masonic, besides being so cryptic and preachy that it shouldn't be used as an informational source anyhow. If like me you enjoy reading this sort of thing for the few magnificently terrible sentences sometimes provided, I still think you could do better elsewhere; but it gave me some interesting moments.

ETA: Oh, and I initially forgot to mention-- the title page also has an interesting and intricate line-drawing of a seal which features what I can only describe as beavers rampant. They are so well drawn that I know I am not mistaken: those are actually beavers. It's very impressive. They are supporting between them a shield and treading underfoot a motto, and they are looking rather bored.

* No, she actually does. See Thus Was Adonis Murdered, p. 1, if you haven't already; and there's your real book recommendation for the evening.


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