|Volume LVI||October 2009||Number 3|
"The Shadow of Solomon,
The Lost Secret of the Freemasons Revealed"
Author: Laurence Gardner Reviewed by Bro. Charles S. Canning, MMS, Academy of Masonic Knowledge
It is only recently that I have come to realize how deep, wide and convoluted Freemasonry actually is. Freemasonry of the 17th century is not Freemasonry as we know it. "Anderson's Constitutions" influenced both "modern" and "ancient" Masonry and ignored historic facts. Today we can find scholarship which calls attention to missing contributions from centuries past. There are revived degrees and orders, which reflect light into dark corners of Masonic ritual, the Worshipful Society known as the Operatives being one. Perhaps in "The Shadow of Solomon" we may find light that will expose some ancient aspect of Masonry and stimulate our curiosity.
Author Laurence Gardner divides his text into three parts. Part One consists of ancient secrets, origins and power politics that influenced Masonic evolution. He investigates records and archival material that 18th century Masonry had claimed was lost. Ancient roots and metaphysical aspects are discussed, along with the development of Freemasonry through the ages. Kabbalistic overtones give new interpretation to "the most important of all Masonic devices," the point within a circle. Secrets from Judaic lore, King Solomon's magical expertise and philosophical schools of Egypt are spun into the mystery of Freemasonry.
Gardner examines "Anderson's Constitutions" and agrees with other scholars that speculative Freemasonry was deliberately manufactured with a new Third Degree, rather than keeping the more appropriate older one, which highlighted the Royal Arch. The original cunning craftsman, Bazaleel, served as the role model for the invented Hiram Abif. Gardner examines the etymology of numerous Masonic words and notes how modernization changed the meaning of ritual. He builds a case for Scots Masonry and its esoteric Rosicrucian background.
Part Two examines ceremonies and esoteric heritage, along with chivalric institutions and philosophical foundations. He builds on the framework laid out in Part One and examines the Knights Templar, the Royal Order of Scotland, cathedral building and the legend of Hiram Abif. He notes that, "...the lost secret of Freemasonry is based on the arcane lore of Solomon's temple, which presents itself as a sophisticated form of Hermetic alchemy." More linguistic background is presented, along with descriptive ritual motifs and words. He reviews Roslyn Chapel, Sinclair's voyages to North America in 1398 and the evolution of tracing boards.
Part Three returns us to the Stewarts, the Royal Society and "Anderson's Constitutions." He gives us much to think about in this section. He cites Shakespeare's use of concept and words that we also find in Freemasonry. Of particular interest is the point within a circle. Gardner takes Freemasonry to America and reflects on the forming of a new government and Masonic symbols. He notes that, from an aerial view, the Washington Monument is a point within a circle. He reminds us, "...the Light is being pursued towards a proverbial vanishing point, which is also its point of emanation." He concludes, "It is here 'at the center' that the ultimate universal secret waits still to be found."
I found the text interesting and compelling. It is full of thought-provoking material, well-written and well-documented. Some crucial footnotes are from "The Forgotten Monarchy of Scotland," a book by Prince Michael of Albany, which is self-serving. The burning of the Library at Alexandria, Egypt, in 391 A.D. is cited as a reason for the loss of so many primary manuscripts from ancient times, but Gardner fails to note the Library at Toledo, which was reopened in the late 15th century, when Spain defeated the Moors.
I recommend this book for anyone who appreciates history and the challenge of a new way of looking at the origin and evolution of Freemasonry.
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