While I have never written a real book review, I have certainly given talks about books and recommend many of them. I know the old aphorism, "Never judge a book by its cover." Added to this appears to be an common law to never review or recommend a book from its first quarter. The true value of a text is ascertained during its great middle and completing finish.
This is a law which I feel compelled to break. Work is terribly busy right now, so I have to work on this flight, but my take-off and landing book is "The Magus of Freemasonry" written by Tobias Churton. I have mentioned this author a number of times in my blog, since he impressed me with his book "The Golden Builders: Alchemists, Rosicrucians, First Freemasons." While at Borders last year I purchased Magus and sat it on my reading queue. What a shame...
The work is a biography of Elias Ashmole, the first man to record his own becoming an Accepted Mason, called today a speculative Freemason. The distinction between so-called "Free" and "Accepted" Masons makes for a pointless inter-jurisdictional debate today, but it meant a great deal during the 17th and 18th centuries. Bro. Ashmole was a famous man in his day as a founding member of the Royal Society, antiquarian and general lover of history, science and alchemy.
At this moment I am in the air over Massachusetts having read about 10% of the book while on the runway and through takeoff. Though I have hundreds of pages yet to read I must strongly recommend this work to all Masons interested in a search for knowledge and understanding of our real 17th and 18th century history. To the general reader, I offer this quotation from the book which, like the stone itself, fell on me and is still blossoming in my brain:
[Ashmole] inhabited a world where science and magick were still handmaidens to religion and philosophy. He was one of the last men of learning to enjoy that world before the family broke up. All too soon, science would leave home to plow her own furrow independently and at times in contempt of her troubled parents. Nevertheless, Ashmole was a founding member o the Royal Society - a harbinger of that fateful parting - and was himself unconcerned with theological disputes. The philosophy he espoused stood above them; and so did he.
If I were wiser and more skilled with words, I might be able to explain the powerful picture those words create in my head. Imagine the history of the Enlightenment period and the eventually antagonistic relationship between science and religion as a painting illuminated by fluorescent lighting. With these few sentences, Churton turns off the lights and opens a window allowing the work to be illuminated by pure sunlight. A new depth and character appears in the work, which was never noticed before.
All this on page two! If the rest of the book is even half this quality, then we should all own a copy of it.
Labels: book, England, esoterica, Freemasonry, history