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Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Freemasons A History Of The World Most Powerful Secret Society

The Freemasons A History Of The World Most Powerful Secret Society Cover

Book: The Freemasons A History Of The World Most Powerful Secret Society by Jasper Ridley

Ridley takes a critical look at Freemasonry and its place and members in history. To date this has been the best, most honest, and accurate look at Freemasonry throughout history up to the year 2000.

Many books about the Freemasons are hysterical polemics based on ludicrous conspiracy theories. British historian Jasper Ridley offers a welcome antidote to these half-witted tomes with The Freemasons, a sober-minded account of a secret society that has survived for centuries. Most important, Ridley provides the one thing missing from many discussions of the masons: facts. For instance, after noting the "well-established legend in the United States that the Freemasons made the American Revolution," Ridley shows that "of the 55 men who signed the Declaration of Independence, only nine were certainly masons." (Prominent members of the founding generation who were not masons include Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Alexander Hamilton.) This shows that masons have played a meaningful role in history, though not the domineering one their critics have alleged. Even though Ridley (who is not a mason) defends the masons against the overblown charges made against them, he doesn't quite buy the explanation that "they are no different from a golf club. ...Members of golf clubs do not take oaths not to reveal the secrets of the club." For a level- headed account of how a medieval guild of stone masons developed over time into an offbeat social organization with a powerful membership, Ridley's book is tough to beat.

Instead of looking at just the internal history of Freemasonry, Ridley writes about its influence (and it's members) on the world and how the world has influence it throughout history. The books places the craft in a historical context in the fact that the book explains what historical events were occurring and how it effect Freemasonry. Such as the American and French Revolutions.

As Masonic halls throughout America shut their doors because of declining membership Ridley provides an extended history of the group that was in its prime a couple of generations ago. Although its origins can be traced to stonemasons of the Middle Ages, the Masonic movement as we know it today took root in 18th-century England, where the first Grand Lodge was established in 1717. The movement thrived thanks to its ability to attract aristocratic and influential members of society among them Sir Walter Scott, Frederick the Great and George Washington who joined to socialize, dine and exchange views with like-minded and similarly influential men, and get a frisson from engaging in secret rituals in an exclusive club. Despite the catalogue of powerful members, the book's subtitle is misleading. The Masonic movement, as a sympathetic Ridley himself shows, has generally been benign, and tried to steer clear of political controversy, particularly in the two countries Britain and the United States where it has most firmly taken root. Of course, any secret society that boasts influential members is bound to cause suspicion, and Ridley details the waves of anti-Masonic sentiment that arose throughout the centuries, as well as assorted scandals involving fraud and murder allegations. Yes, its members swear to preserve its secrets on pain of death. But the main reason that Freemasonry's mysteries remain hidden appears largely to be a general lack of interest by society at large. Because of the sweeping scope of his study, Ridley often oversimplifies an age or historical figure. Thus, this is less a book for the serious reader of history than for the simply inquisitive or prospective members of the movement who have no inkling how the Masons differ from Rotarians.

Meanwhile, Ridley sheds light on the Masons and sweeps away the lies and half truths of others that have come before him and takes an honest look at the craft.
Ridley makes a solid case that in his work that instead of being some secret world wide conspiracy to control events or the world, Masons are often divided on the great issues of the day. However, English and American Masons forbid any political discussion within their lodges. Ridley points out that in every war, Masons supported and fought for their respective countries, which pitted Masons of different sides against each other. Ridley also documents how Freemasons were often the target of oppression and witch hunts started by dictators who have banned the craft and the formation of lodges.

The Freemasons is a great book for it's historical look at the craft and the history surrounding it both inside and outside. It takes a look at who were some of history's most famous Masons. While at the same time, not all Masons were angels.. but in the end showing that Freemasonry has always stood for the ideals of morality and freedom.

Buy Jasper Ridley's book: The Freemasons A History Of The World Most Powerful Secret Society

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