Volume LIVNovember 2007Number 4

KABBALAH for Health and Wellness
by Mark Stavish Reviewed by Bro. Charles S. Canning, Academy of Masonic Knowledge

Initially, I was hesitant to submit this text for review in The Pennsylvania Freemason, as it appeared removed from a study of Freemasonry. However, there is a growing body of published works on the esoteric philosophy underlying Freemasonry, and Stavish's text might provide a better mental and physical preparation for the serious student of Freemasonry in understanding those hidden areas of ritual and allegory that escape notice. Freemasonry does not prescribe or teach Hermeticism or the Kabbalah, yet there are ritual motifs and symbols that hint at a background of esoteric influence.

Stavish provides a clear picture of a subject that seems to lurk in our Masonic origin. You don't have to become an adept, but utilizing some of the meditation practices found in the text may allow one to see Masonic ritual in a more meaningful light. Self-improvement is the goal of both Freemasonry and Esotericism. We can't be sure what ideas are contained in the "primordial soup" that gave birth to speculative Freemasonry.

Stavish examines various aspects and schools of the Kabbalah and provides an organized means of understanding the overall focus of a rather complex subject. The first half of the text is a preparation for applying the principles of Kabbalah and includes various exercises for meditation. There are references in the text to Masonic symbolism that point to an esoteric origin. The theme of York Rite Masonry is the "word," which is lost, recovered, preserved and given new meaning in the Christian Orders of Knights Templar. The Kabbalah is also about the "word," and is studied in the context of Jewish mysticism. The second portion of the book familiarizes the reader with the pathworking and relationships of the Tree of Life.

For the Master Mason who is curious about the esoteric aspects of Freemasonry, Kabbalah for Health and Wellness is an excellent text to study the basics of meditation and the use of pathways. As the degrees of Freemasonry provide pathways that reflect back upon themselves to give us new understanding of the ritual, so the pathways of the Tree of Life allow one to build a stronger and better balanced understanding of self. The text offers us a new approach to understanding and self improvement.

By reflecting, I have always found new meaning in the Masonic ritual. I would recommend the book for the Mason who wishes to add a new dimension to his Masonic journey by exploring the ritual motifs in a deeper meditative and reflective manner.
Builders of Empire: Freemasonry and British Imperialism, 1717-1927
by Jessica l. harland-Jacobs Reviewed by Cathy Giaimo, Assistant Librarian

Freemasons pride themselves on their universal fellowship with their brother Masons around the world. Did you ever wonder how this fraternity became so global or what influences it had on the countries to which it was brought? Jessica L. Harland-Jacobs discusses these questions and others in "Builders of Empire: Freemasonry and British Imperialism, 1717-1927."

Ms. Harland-Jacobs develops her study of British Freemasonry through five themes that include globalization, supranational institutions and identities, imperial power, masculinity and fraternalism. Even though any one of these might make your eyes glaze over, she does show how an organization that started with some pretty radical ideas such as universal brotherhood and tolerance, eventually becomes identified with the ruling elite of the British Empire. Of special interest is that by admitting the native elite into the local lodges, these men were exposed to Masonic principles that would eventually lead to the overthrow of the status quo.

The reader will note that Ms. Harland-Jacobs begins her story with the formation of the Grand Lodge of England in 1717. She also does an admirable job of explaining the history of the Ancients and Modern Freemasons, their rivalry and the effectiveness of the Ancients in spreading Freemasonry beyond the shores of Great Britain. By approaching this history chronologically, the reader gets a good picture of how Freemasonry spread itself throughout the world (much like the proverbial pebble thrown into a lake), the traditions it brought with it, the conflicts and resolutions and the intertwining of empire building and Freemasonry.

Jessica L. Harland-Jacobs also references other authors, such as Margaret Jacob and Steven Bullock, whose books can be found in the Circulating Library. For these authors' books, check out the Circulating Library Web site at www.pagrandlodge.org or call the librarian at (800) 462-0430, ext. 1933 for specific titles.

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