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"...a formidable and provocative collection..." 24 décembre 2014
Par S. Eyer - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
From the review published in Philalethes: The Journal of Masonic Research & Letters, 67 (2014): 129-130.

The appearance of this volume of essays comes amid a growing academic interest in the study of Freemasonry. The editors of the Handbook are well known to all of us working in the field of Freemasonry and the academic study of western esotericism. Dr. Henrik Bogdan is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Literature, History of Ideas, and Religion at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. Dr. Jan Snoek is Emeritus Professor of the Institute for the Sciences of Religions at the University of Heidelberg, Germany. Both are known for their notable contributions to our understanding of the Masonic world.

The structure of the Handbook arranges its thirty articles into five sections: historical perspectives; Freemasonry and religion; ritual, organization, and diffusion; Freemasonry, society, and politics; and Freemasonry and culture. The volume opens with a balanced 20-page history of Freemasonry, written by the editors. Refreshingly, they elsewhere summarize the complexities involved in the question of Masonic origins by noting that “it is impossible to say when Freemasonry as we know it was founded.”

Andrew Prescott contributes an excellent survey on the Old Charges, following which there are two stimulating essays on Masonic origins in Scotland (by David Stevenson) and England (by Matthew Scanlan). Stevenson’s chapter is a summary of his well-known research, while Scanlan’s gives a critical survey of past and present scholarship on English Masonic history. His discussion of methodological issues will be useful for any student of the subject. This is followed by treatments of Templarism (Pierre Mollier), and the Enlightenment era (Margaret Jacob). The section concludes with a rather tangled essay by the late Charles Porset titled “Masonic Historiography.”

The section on Masonry and religion includes especially informative and well-written chapters on Protestantism, Islam and western esotericism; also treated are Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Judaism, eastern religions, and new religious movements.
The cornerstone of the next section, devoted to ritual and diffusion, is Jan Snoek’s excellent essay, “Masonic Rituals of Initiation.” This is followed by “Masonic Rites and Systems,” contributed by Arturo de Hoyos, FPS. These are both essential studies.
The remaining sections on political and cultural impacts of Freemasonry feature ten chapters, all of which are fascinating. I was especially impressed by François Rognon’s treatment of Freemasonry and war, the late Malcolm Davies’ chapter on Music in the Craft, R.A. Gilbert’s piece on Masonry and literature, and James Stevens Curl’s brilliant survey of the underexplored theme of Masonry and architecture.

There are some imperfections to be expected in any work of this magnitude. I noticed a small number of factual errors, mostly resulting from overly-comprehensive assertions. Also, while the editors took a neutral approach by adopting “the self-designations ‘regular’ and ‘liberal’ to distinguish between the two dominant forms of Freemasonry,” that stipulation was not applied without exception. Moreover, occasionally an author’s bias against regular Freemasonry could be detected. However, this is nothing new in academia.

The Handbook of Freemasonry is a formidable and provocative collection of the thoughts of many of the most accomplished scholars of Freemasonry in Europe and America. Anyone involved in serious Masonic research will find it to be a valuable resource.
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