Volume LIVMay 2007Number 2

Masonic Book Reviews to Peruse

"Meditations on Masonic Symbolism"
by John R. Heisner
Reviewed by Cathy Giaimo, Assistant Librarian, The Masonic Library and Museum of Pennsylvania

One of the better-known hallmarks of Freemasonry is its symbolism. "Meditations on Masonic Symbolism" by Bro. John R. Heisner is a small thoughtful book reflecting on their meanings and importance.

Bro. Heisner, Past Master of Blackmer Lodge No. 442 of San Diego, originally wrote these essays for his lodge's monthly bulletin. Each meditation, only 2-3 pages in length, contemplates such questions as "What is a Mason?" and "The Principles of Brotherhood." He also touches upon some of the lessons taught in each of the Masonic degrees like justice, the mystic tie and the 47th Problem of Euclid.

Each chapter serves as a reminder of some facet of Freemasonry that is as relevant today, in the 21st century, as it was during the early years of Freemasonry's formation. It is also hoped that by reading this book you remember what attracted you to Freemasonry in the first place.

To borrow this book, you may contact the Library at (800) 462-0430, ext. 1933. Or, visit the Circulating Library Web site at www.pagrandlodge.org to find more books on this subject.

"The Pagan Dream of the Renaissance"
by Joscelyn Godwin, Weiser Books, Boston, MA
Reviewed by Bro. Charles S. Canning, Academy of Masonic Knowledge

Godwin presents a very detailed picture of the Renaissance and draws us into the fantasy. The richness of our own Masonic journey permits us a parallel experience to be both participant and observer and to withdraw from the dream with a richer understanding.

It is a book about that period of history which preceded the Enlightenment. The Renaissance of the 15th century was a time of rebirth of the pagan Greek and Roman gods that become the subject matter of art and architecture. Godwin develops an understanding of the social psyche of the period that was enriched by the mythical pagan imagination and the soul's longing for beauty.

The classical art of Greece and Rome was given new interpretation, and out of the reevaluating of old assumptions came the basic ideas that influenced the social history of the Enlightenment that followed and, along with it, its stepchild, Freemasonry.

One of the key elements of the "dream" is in the private microcosm of the "studiolo," a small, richly decorated study representing a place of retreat from the public world that reinforced the dream in a "historical, moral, Hermetic and cosmic context." We are reminded that the Masonic lodge is also an oasis for meditation. Godwin illustrates the art and architecture in hundreds of detailed illustrations. The text concludes beyond Italy with the French buildings and gardens of Versailles and illustrates the Masonic theme of Mozart's "Magic Flute."

When reading "The Pagan Dream," with the gods, the seasons, the Zodiac, the muses, the spheres, the liberal arts and the classical virtues, one can see an influence in the frontispiece of "Anderson's Constitutions" with Apollo riding in the heavens, and in other early Masonic thought.

Freemasonry borrowed from the classical architecture with its temples and halls. The motif of its ritual even echoes historical figures and allegories of the pagan Renaissance. Buildings like the Grand Lodge in Philadelphia, with its art and architecture, allow us to dream. They inspire as well as awe, an aspiration for knowledge and an appreciation for beauty. Freemasonry has built its own "Sun Palaces" for enlightenment.

I enjoyed "The Pagan Dream of the Renaissance," not only as a study of art history, but also an understanding of the collective unconscious and its influence on social history, and ultimately our own fraternity. It is a fascinating reference text that imparts an understanding of the milieu that influenced Freemasonry.

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