The Secret History of Freemasonry by Paul Naudon © 2005

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    The Secret History of Freemasonry  by  Paul Naudon  © 2005  Inner Traditions  ISBN  1-59477-028-X   paperback  308 pages  includes notes and index  $16.95 (U.S.)  $24.50 (Canada)

    This is the first U.S. printing of a book originally published in France in 1991.  This presents one problem to the American reader as most of the works cited in the notes are in French, Italian, or German, thus making it difficult to check sources, if you are so inclined.

    Unlike other books on the topic which I have seen, which give only a token background of the operative branch of masonry while extolling the speculative branch, there is an extensive exploration of the formations of masonic organizations.  The emphasis in the first half of this book is on historical background with minimal speculation, instead of the other way around.  The legends associated with Freemasonry – Hiram of Tyre, et. al, are barely mentioned by this author.  The author, I seems to me, assumes his readers are at least conversant with the basics of alleged Masonic history.

    This is a book which is devoted, in its major treatments, to the history of operative freemasonry and its gradual evolution into the speculative Freemasonry of today.  The formation of masonic guilds, brotherhoods, and compagnonnages receives far more detail than the “higher degrees” of modern Freemasonry.

    While I would hesitate to qualify this as a book for specialists, I would have to say that it is not aimed at the casual reader.  The author is a high-ranking Freemason living in France, and thus has access to much information which is difficult for others to obtain.  He writes eloquently about topics which are near and dear to his heart.  His background as a law scholar specializing in the history of civil law and institutions gives a perspective which, when combined with his Masonic knowledge, must be close to unique.

    I learned more about the facts underlying Freemasonry in this one book than in a dozen others I have read.  I highly recommend it to those who wish to learn more about this fascinating topic.


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