Masonic Research – online vs offline
Many Brothers from around the district do some pretty in depth research on Freemasonry and many of its aspects, both exoteric and esoteric. So where is a Mason to find this information, at least reliably.
Of course many of our older Brothers would say without hesitation, “read a/the book”. Some of the newer members might recognize these ancient communication devices. They are usually rectangular in shape, and range in size from that of a tablet to a small LCD TV, usually thicker and heavier. They have pages made of paper and words printed on them. Maybe that’s too harsh a critique of today’s digitized society. One could say in the connected world, “I can have access almost instantaneously to just about every book ever written on the subject of Freemasonry or any subject really”. And they’d be both right.
That being said; any serious researcher would still need to verify their sources and confirm that what is being read in a digital format is what the author originally out down on paper. This is especially true if attempting to counter a statement by someone who may be ‘cherry picking’ statements made by a Masonic author to use in a debate or to criticize Freemasonry.
OK so where should one start in researching a subject about Freemasonry? Googling a subject will often get you some “unexpected” paths to follow, but you must be wary again of the source and validity of what is being presented. The Internet can be a wonderful place to get info provided we have the common sense to filter and question before taking anything as ‘fact’. So beyond search engines where else would one go. There are several online sites of quality Masonic research.
One of the top places online is Pietre-Stones Review of Freemasonry, which has been around for many years and many fine articles and papers have been published by this site. There is also the Philalethes Society which has also been online many years and is actually a reseach society which was established in 1946 and publishes a magazine as well. There are a few other published periodicals, like the Masonic Society and The now shuttered Living Stones magazine.
Online Masonic Research would also not be complete without The Quatuor Coronati Lodge of Research, which also publishes online and in print. Of interest to some the Ars Quatuor Coronati Lodge of Research has initiated an North American Correspondence Circle, which brothers can subscribe to, called QC America. For the curious, the Ars Quatuor Coronati Lodge is a reference to the Four Crowned Martyrs, one of the oldest legends in Freemasonry. You can learn more about the Four Crowned Martyrs HERE.
There are in fact many Lodges of research to get the information you may seek. Even right here in NY we have the American Lodge of Research (I was not able to find an updated website for the ALR, however they do have a Facebook link which seems to be kept up to date.)
In fact there are quite a few Lodges of research in the US and abroad. Paul Bessel keeps a pretty good list of them on his site. There are many other sites which of course we can’t link to them all, for almost any Masonic subject. The real key is to make sure it’s reliable and reputable. Make sure the sources can be checked and verified before using the research in a paper or presentation.
Now about these alien objects referred to as books. As good as online research can be it may all come down to books in the end. One fantastic resource all Masons have, especially NY Masons, is the Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library. The Library is one of the most extensive in the nation and also has quite a few very interesting Masonic artifacts in its possession. The Library also offers a reading course that starts at the EA degree and goes all the way to Grand Lodge officer reading course. I highly recommend these courses to new and old Masons alike.
Let’s not forget your own local Library as a source of information on Freemasonry. My own town’s little library has several volumes with Freemasonry in the title or subject. Some good and a few not so good. While perusing this section some years ago, I found a book by a famous “psychic” that was on quite a few talk shows in the 80s and 90s. One section of her book which was about “secret societies” was on Freemasonry and reading it gave me a good chuckle but not much info as it was 90% incorrect and based on what was known false information from another spurious author from the early 19th century. So even books can get it wrong. But a good example of considering the source.
The subject of Freemasonry over the centuries has attracted authors from Freemasons themselves writing about the theories and origins of the Craft to non-masons writing about Freemasonry or it’s connections, etc. One might consider reading a Brother’s book, Joseph Fort Newton’s; The Builders (now totally free online) and a non-masons book like The Pilgrim’s Path by John Robinson to get an interesting perspective. There are so many more, too many to mention but some I would recommend personally are Carl Claudy, Chris Hodapp, S. Brent Morris & Margaret Jacob for a more contemporary take on Freemasonry.
For those who are looking to dig deeper into the psychology or esoteric side, there is Arthur Edward Waite, Albert Pike, Wilmshurst, Manly Palmer Hall, Robert Gould and George Oliver to name a few. The good news is many of the authors above have their print books now in digital format so one visit to Amazon or B&N online and you can download the book. The above is by no means a definitive list, just a few suggestions off the cuff as it were. I am sure there are many Brothers that could, ad infinitum, expand to this list in the comments section below..hint..hint.
“There is not a man on earth who succeeds in knowing everything; but every man should aspire to know everything.” – Giacomo Casanova
I always like to challenge inquisitive Brothers to read, either online or in print, at least one Masonic book per year. Which in the case of Albert Pike’s Morals & Dogma may just take a whole year.
I also encourage Brothers to start a Masonic library in their Lodges if they can. Ff your Lodge has a secure place to put a small book shelf and you can uses a simple index card system with the books. Ask your Brothers for donations of Masonic or Masonic related books to put into the Library. You’d be surprised how many Brothers take advantage of this.
Today we as Freemason can get overwhelmed with the sheer amount of Masonic Information available to to us. There are hundreds if not thousands of blogs, personal pages about Freemasonry. There are podcasts and webcasts of every conceivable subject. Add to that the books either in print or digitized that you can read. Some would say this is a good thing but I find that fewer and fewer Brother actually read these in any constructive way. Usually it’s just a search to check a fact and that’s it. It has been said that Freemasonry moves slowly and likewise so should we, when it comes to Masonic knowledge and study.
A quarterly research and study group for all members of the Suffolk District is something I have envisioned for some time. Nothing so grandiose as the Lodge of Research but maybe start with a book, like the afore mentioned, The Builders, and meet every three months to discuss points of the work in question. Between meetings online discussion would be perfectly fine. I think it would do the District much good to have brothers from any/all Lodges in the District partake. Considering that nothing about the ritual will be discussed, it could be held anywhere. Suggestions on this would be most welcome.
It’s sometimes difficult to get a study group going in one’s lodge as only a few or very few are interested in such activities. So something district wide may be more plausible if enough are interested. Either in a group or individually we should always be looking for more information.