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Observing the Craft: The Pursuit of Excellence in Masonic Labour and Observance Paperback – 2010

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 161 pages
  • Publisher: Mindhive Books; First edition (2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0981831613
  • ISBN-13: 978-0981831619
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.8 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #368,712 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Chris Murphy on January 4, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There are many books about the history of Freemasonry, but Observing the Craft, by W.'. Andrew Hammer falls within the much rarer category of books about the future of our Ancient Institution. Bro.'. Hammer explicitly affirms Masonry's role as "a philosophical society", a sacred initiatic process focused on the internal and diligent labor of each Brother of attaining personal perfection. He points to the loss of this focus as the cause of the Craft's falling numbers and its inability to provide a truly enlightening experience for our contemporary Brethren.

Bro.'. Hammer does not mince words; the first chapter states, "[If ] for you Masonry is about simple brotherhood, good times and philanthropy, and should not be bothered with contemplating anything beyond what can be easily and completely understood by all... you have gone through all of Masonry in as much darkness as when you started... And this is the greatest danger facing the Craft today."

What Bro.'. Hammer does do, however, is to remind each of us that our Fraternity is a labor of which we are all blessed and privileged to be a part, and one that should be protected from lazy members and unworthy potential members. He advises that every attempt to make our Order more appealing to the profane world, every time we advance a man through the Degrees prior to him demonstrating that he has committed his mind and energies to self-improvement, every time we engage in any activity that diminishes the sacred confines of our Lodge room, we are doing a disservice to ourselves and abdicating the responsibility we adopted upon being Raised as Master Masons.

This book is not some tough-love pap; it is not a series of lectures telling contemporary Freemasons what they have done wrong.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By S. Eyer on January 3, 2011
Format: Paperback
As reviewed in Philalethes: The Journal of Masonic Research & Letters:

From time to time a book will appear that truly advances the discussion of a topic. In recent decades, much ink has been spilled in Masonic publications on the mighty question of how to improve our lodges, reinvigorate our meetings and enhance the Craft's relevancy in the lives of its initiates. Many good suggestions have been put forward about including Masonic education in the lodge, or creating programs to appeal to younger members. Most of these, however, while valuable, do not address the problem systemically. Observing the Craft dares to.

The author, W. Bro. Andrew Hammer MPS is a Past Master of one of America's most distinguished and historic lodges, Alexandria-Washington No. 22. As such, he addresses the strange mental divide that we have in the Fraternity between knowing how important our heritage is, and really treating our lodges with the dignity that this very heritage must demand. This book recommends that we can improve the situation when we view the Craft as "a philosophical society which demands of its members the highest standards in all areas of its labour." Bro. Hammer does not recommend that all lodges do so, but he expresses the wish that the Fraternity accomodate those lodges that wish to more formally observe the traditions of the Craft, and calls for mutual toleration and respect among those who may not agree.

Throughout, he recommends the view that Craft tradition is worthwhile in itself, and should be respected and preserved, rather than casually altered. "Observing the Craft matters," he argues, "because if we do not do so, then we will lose it in its true fullness of form, and not even know what it is we lost."

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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By K. D Kirk on November 28, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book forcefully but respectfully advocates a return to the core essence of the Masonic Order as an Initiatic tradition. It asserts that Freemasonry is principally a philosophical tradition which helps its observant/active members to advance and develop their character and spirituality, with all that flows therefrom. The focus of the book is placed appropriately upon the Symbolic (Blue) Lodge as the "ne plus ultra" of the Craft where all of this work should take place.

The book poignantly but rationally takes issue with the myriad "distractions" that the Fraternity has developed over the decades, namely the appendant orders (e.g. York, Scottish Rites, Knights Templar) and other quasi- or Masonic-related clubs (e.g. Shrine, OES, etc.). This is where the author is courageous. The ideas in this short treatise are not likely to sit well with literally thousands of good members of the Order who see Freemasonry's objectives and emphasis in a different light. Fortunately, the author is circumspect and smart enough to acknowledge the 'many paths' argument and as such, largely avoids pedantry in advancing his opinions (opinions which I know are widely shared but rarely so openly stated). With virtually every page, I found himself thinking "this is exactly what I've always thought as well."

The book also focuses concisely on issues regarding the pursuit of excellence in working at what Freemasons profess to hold central. It treats of such seemingly incidental issues as dress codes, decorum and the festive board. In fact, Observing the Craft makes clear that dress, decorum and the festive board are central to how brethren should view their attachment and dedication to the Fraternity. The repeated references to Craftsmanship are not surprising and are obviously appropriate.
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