The Independent Magazine for Freemasons
By: John Belton
John Belton is a Masonic scholar of international repute. It is therefore no surprise that he was invited by the Australia & New Zealand Masonic Research Council (ANZMRC) to be the biennial Touring Lecturer for the 2017 delivering a series of lectures across the length and breadth of both countries. The lectures delivered during that tour are contained in this book, which is published in association with ANZMRC. They are based on research that John has carried out stretching back almost thirty years. The lectures have been previously delivered at various meetings or conferences and/or published in a range of Masonic books, journals and magazines, over the last eleven years, which is a testimony to both their quality and the regard in which John is held by his peers. Bringing them together in one volume will one hopes bring them to the attention of a far wider and appreciative audience.
The range of the contents of the book not unreasonably reflect John’s own research interests, and chapters include such diverse subjects as: international Freemasonry relating to France, Ireland, America, Italy, Turkey, and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion; the Union between the Antients and Moderns and its impact on the Royal Arch and other Orders of Freemasonry; biographies of two Masons who had an impact on their sphere of Freemasonry: Dudley Wright, and Revd. Henry Duncan; a reappraisal Gould’s Histories of Freemasonry; and some original and thought provoking chapters on orders beyond the Craft, historic trends in membership figures and how they might be improved and Freemasonry revitalised.
One of the book’s strength is that fact that all the pieces are written by the same author. All too often in a work of this nature the various essays or articles are usually written by a number of different authors, with an editor having to put together the diverse styles, and overlapping material into a consistent whole. In this instance there is a natural coherence, that does not conflict with the opportunity to dip in and out, or even the ability to miss out chapters that may not be of any particular interest, and still appreciate that author has managed to pull together what may have appeared to be a number of diverse subject areas to form a complete entity.
As one would expect of a researcher of John Belton’s standing the chapters are all well researched, well written, and well documented. It is refreshing to see detailed endnotes, which whilst not distracting the general reader, provide a valuable resource for Masonic researchers who wish to pursue their own studies further.
If there is a criticism to be made it probably rests with the publisher in agreeing to such a nebulous title, and cover design that give no insight into the actual content of the book. A sub-title indicating that it is in fact a collection of articles would redirect the potential reader from perceiving that the contents may be of a more esoteric nature.
All in all, however the book is a fascinating potpourri of pieces of Masonic interest, a book that can be wholeheartedly recommended, as one that will appeal not only to the general reader, but also to Masonic scholars and researchers, which in itself is a very rare achievement and accolade.
Reviewer: Richard Gan
ISBN: 978 0 85318 568 0