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The Independent Magazine for Freemasons

Secret Handshakes and Rolled-Up Trouser Legs

The Secrets of Freemasonry - Fact or Fiction


By: Richard Gan


What is Freemasonry? A very difficult question to answer even for a Freemason. It is relatively easy to explain the fact that Freemasonry is a charitable organisation and raises enormous amounts of money to help those in need, mason and non-mason alike. But, not so easy to explain why members attend meetings, wear aprons, have secret handshakes, get involved with ceremonies and learn ritual.


However, all is not lost because this particular book will help to answer many of those questions. Although written specifically for the non-Mason, it will certainly help Freemasons to understand the Order better and be able explain and discuss it with others. The book has a rather light-hearted title, which the author explains is what most people seem to know about Freemasonry. Nevertheless, there is also a sub-title - ‘The secrets of Freemasonry - Fact and Fiction’ - which redresses the balance and really does explain. The contents have been well researched and the book is very readable, being clear, concise and informative. There are also many illustrations.


There have of course been many books written on the subject of Freemasonry. Some have attempted to expose the fraternity. Some written by Masons have been rather heavy in content and not always easily understood. Others have been written by non-Masons with little knowledge of the fraternity and with a negative content. Many of these books start with a history of Freemasonry and attempt to put matters into some sort of context. This publication, however, has no such unnecessary frills and simply explains what Freemasonry is all about, including the myths and conceptions.


The book’s introduction explains the basics of Freemasonry. What it is, how it is formed and what is expected of members.


The remainder of the book is in two parts. Part I has the title; ‘The Secrets of Freemasonry: Separating Fact from Fiction’, and that is exactly what it does. Questions are put and answers given, such as: What is a Lodge? What goes on in the Lodge room? How to become a Freemason? However, the author does not shy away from prickly subjects and responds to such questions as: How do Freemasons avoid getting caught by the police? How do Freemasons manage to get off in court?


There are many other questions and answers, all relevant and well answered. This is not surprising, as the author is an experienced and senior Freemason and a Grand Officer in all the major orders of Freemasonry.


Part II of the book has the title ‘An A to Z of Freemasonry’, and is an interesting change from the usual, in that it encyclopaedic and laid out in alphabetical order. The author explains that some topics concerning Freemasonry deserve to be covered in more depth. Also, that as it is difficult to decide what is likely to appeal to the non-Mason, it enables the reader to dip in and out and choose what is of most interest to them at any time.


There are also many other topics in Part II, such as American Freemasonry, Royalty, the Press, Women’s Freemasonry, in fact, far too many too mention. Then at the very end of the book, there is a useful bibliography and suggested reading list.


The author explains that the book is not intended to be an academic tome, but that he has attempted to tackle the issues likely to be of interest to the non-Masonic reader in as full a way as possible. He also states that he has not tried to justify the case for the existence of Freemasonry; and that the reader may well still continue to be left feeling antagonistic towards Freemasonry, but at least will be better informed as to the reasons why.


The book is written in an easy, flowing style that makes it nicely readable and understandable. It successfully answers many questions about Freemasonry and I would suggest that it would be a good and interesting read for any non-Mason who would just like to know who and what we are. It would also be useful and informative to any Freemason, at whatever stage of their Masonic career.



Reviewed by Mike Karn


Lewis Masonic, 2014

ISBN: 9870853184416


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