The Freemasons: A History of the World's Most Powerful Secret Society

Jasper Ridley

Published by Arcade Publishing, 2011
ISBN 10: 1611450101 / ISBN 13: 9781611450101
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Synopsis: What did Mozart and Bach, Oscar Wilde and Anthony Trollope, George Washington and Frederick the Great, Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt have in common? They were all Freemasons, a subject of endless fascination. To the layman, they are a mysterious brotherhood of profound if uncertain influence, a secret society purported in some popular histories to have its roots in the fabled order of the Knights Templar, or in the mysteries of the Egyptian pyramids. They evoke fears of world domination by a select few who enjoy privileged access to wealth and the levers of power. The secrecy of their rites suggests the taint of sacrilege, and their hidden loyalties are sometimes accused of undermining the workings of justice and the integrity of nations.

Though not a mason himself, Jasper Ridley nonetheless refutes many of the outrageous allegations made against Freemasonry, while at the same time acknowledging the masons’ shortcomings: their clannishness, misogyny, obsession with secrecy, and devotion to arcane ritual. In this much-needed reassessment, he offers a substantial work of history that sifts the truth from the myth as it traces Freemasonry from its origins to the present day.

Review: 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. --John Miller

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Title: The Freemasons: A History of the World's ...
Publisher: Arcade Publishing
Publication Date: 2011
Binding: Paperback
Book Condition: Used: Good

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