The Independent Magazine for Freemasons
By: Keith B. Jackson
My first copy of this well-known book was the second edition and was given to me by a Grand Officer in my Mother Lodge. In fact, he was a member of several Orders outside Craft Freemasonry, and was a Grand Officer in all of them, which was the cause of a number of enquiries from me as to the nature of these other branches of Freemasonry. I was reluctant to trawl through publications at random, as I was wary of discovering material prematurely which would later be revealed to me in the course of ceremonies should I decide to join one or more of these orders.
The gift of Bro. Jackson’s Beyond the Craft was an inspired and considerate one, as it contained details of a wide range of Fraternal Orders recognised as part of the body of Freemasonry. But being written by a member of the Craft – and of several of these Orders – it would not compromise the details kept private for their members alone, and the book has been a valued item in my Masonic library ever since.
Successive editions have been steadily improved and expanded, and the sixth edition contains material not yet seen in previous versions. The format remains the same, with a systematic entry for each degree or organisation, detailing a number of aspects of the Order making for easy comparison between Orders, a great boon for the Masonic researcher. The researcher will also be aided by the sections in each entry on the History of the Orders, followed by details of the Structure and Qualifications – the name of the assembly (Lodge, Chapter, Conclave, etc.) and a list of all the offices in descending order, making a very easy read.
A great advance in recent editions has been the inclusion of colour photographs of the regalia of each Order, which brings a completely new dimension to the descriptions in the text, especially when compared to the old line drawings used previously. Perhaps the opportunity might have been taken to include photographs, not only of items of regalia in isolation, but in some cases of a member of the Order wearing the full set of regalia, to give an idea of the combined effect. In the case of some of the more impressive versions, such as Knights Templar, this would have provided an opportunity to see the final effect not available otherwise.
Another excellent addition to the book has been some of the smaller, and least known, Fraternal Orders, such as the Order of Eri, rendering this a unique source for all interested in this field.
In all, Beyond the Craft remains an outstanding and essential work for Masonic readers, and the new edition builds admirably on the foundations of Bro Jackson’s earlier versions.
Reviewed by Seth Belson
Published by Lewis Masonic