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What do you think of John J. Robinson's works? Especially Born in Blood?
I've never been terribly impressed with Robinson's works. Though Born in Blood is probably one of his better books, the theories posited regarding the decent of Freemasonry from the Knights Templar is far from unique.
Robinson's A Pilgrim's Path attempts to address the concerns of Christian fundamentalists, assuring them that there is nothing of an esoteric or occult nature within Freemasonry. While I certainly believe that Christians may rightly and comfortably be Freemasons, to divorce the Masonic traditions from mysticism and the occult seems foolish to me. I can respect that Robinson wishes to defend Freemasonry from unfounded attacks as being "Satanic" or "evil", but in doing so, I believe he has misrepresented much of the tradition, and perhaps even gives the impression of covering something up.
I have been baffled by the amount of interest in Robinson's work, while so many other good books on Masonry remain unread. Born in Blood is a primary example of the new "it ain't really true nonfiction" genre. Everyone reads it and then says, "Well, it might not be accurate, but it's got some interesting ideas." Does anyone else get tired of hearing that?
I think that A Pilgrim's Path is a much better book, and Robinson did understand and appreciate the political implications of Freemasonry. However, I found his criticism of Pike to be condescending (and unjustifiable) and his hand-wringing over the anti-Masons to be essentially meaningless. Anti-Masonry is not the cause of the decline in Masonic membership. Masons who rush to disown historically important elements of the Tradition because they fear the irrelevant opinions of religious bigots are not doing the fraternity any favors. So my recommendation is always to direct Masonic readers toward either 1) legitimate history, such as we see in Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, Heredom, and good authors like David Stevenson; and 2) traditional symbolism and philosophy... the Masonic standards like Pike, Mackey, Anderson, Preston, Oliver, Wilmshurst and others. Even the "other traditions first, Masonry second" philosophical authors like Réne Guénon, Manly P. Hall, and C. W. Leadbeater are more worthwhile reading than most modern material. Finally, Colin Dyer and W. Kirk MacNulty, to name two contemporary authors, will be more rewarding than books like Born in Blood.
Thanks for inviting me to join this group. I agree if want to learn about Freemasonry stay away from the mainstream, create controversy to sell books genre. Most people want something that is easy to read, does not require a lot of thought and is entertaining. The reason many of the authors you recommend are not more widely read is that they can be difficult to understand if you don't have a basic understanding of symbolism, mythology and general world history. Pike is an amazing writer in the sense that he was so well versed in mythology and was able weave the symbolism into masonic ritual.
I think Mackey's Masonic Encylopedia is great read for someone wanting to learn about freemasonry and as a reference to refer to as needed.
Time to add my thoughts. I have spent most of my life as a Freemason (since 1964), and a member of its youth order, DeMolay (1958) before that. Much of my life has been devoted to reading and studying the history and philosophy of Freemasonry. Reading Robinson is a waste of time. I took him to lunch in the early 1990's when he visited San Francisco, and challenged him on the accuracy of a number of items in his book, and especially on his comment about the connection of Freemasonry and pirates. His comment? "It sells books". 'nuff said.
Bravo! Johnlilburnfreemason! John Robinison's books are but bait for new-age groupies to jump aboard Free Masonry, and it is quite a chore to disabuse them of this fantasy, and concentrat on the Hiramic legend. Thus, we have "The Davinci Code", which sells.
What fascinates me quite a bit about this subject is the passion around it. Many people seem to deeply desire, to psychologically "need," this Templar connection to Freemasonry. I cannot confess to understanding this particularly well, nor most of the other emotional energy around the current craze for outlandish views of history. True: several decades of revisionism and relativism at the college level have transformed history into a "make it up as you go" prospect even for educated adults--many think that's just how history is supposed to be written. But why this specific historical fantasy? It seems tied to the notion that there is some Templar secret that the Masons yet preserve. But why would we think, in the first place, that the Templars had a secret of this kind? This whole thing, to my thinking, is a distraction from far more interesting questions about the origins of the Craft.
The one part I really like thinking about was Robinson's thoughts about Free Masonry's requirement that each of it's members believe in God but that each man was then free to determine what that belief was.
At the time in history Robinson is investigating, all states were tied to a state religion, and any who disagreed with the state religion was condemned to death.
(if you didn't know it, all Saudi Arabians are Muslim according to that state, and it is against the law to change your religion in Saudi Arabia.)
This was the same state of affairs in the western world until about 250 years ago, give or take. And truth be told freedom of religion is still seriously under threat.
So why, when the American revolution happed and the birth of a new country was it so important to make sure that all Americans could freely practice what ever religion they wished.
Why were great masons like George Washington so careful not to give any religious group preference. Brother George always referred to God as Deity or Providence.
Do mason come from Knights Templar? Who cares... But why does Masonry stand for Freedom of self determination. That is truly a question worth pondering. It seems to me, that the major issues that most large organized religions have against masons, is that Masons can come together with our fellow men, meet on the level and not require them to change one part of their belief in god to that of our other members. Because if you were to spend time in their presents, changing your beliefs to fit theirs one of their most important tasks.
I believe that Robinson makes some progress on digging at that import piece of masonry. A foundation stone of Masonry that is constantly under threat from radicals that want to control the lives of all people for their own aims.
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