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The Masonic Myth: Unlocking the Truth About the Symbols, the Secret Rites, and the History of Freemasonry Paperback – September 8, 2009

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; First Edition edition (September 8, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060822562
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060822569
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #918,447 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

This is hardly the first book about the history and inner workings of Freemasonry. It is, however, one of a small number of books written (mostly without an agenda) by a practicing Mason. It’s no big secret that Freemasonry has a reputation as a powerful secret society and that various conspiracy theorists have linked Masonry to everything from the Knights Templar to Jack the Ripper. (Dan Brown uses Masonry in his new novel, The Lost Symbol.) Kinney explores the many rumors and theories surrounding Masonry, separating myth from history, fact from fiction. Think of his book as a sort of dual history, of Masonry itself and of the concurrent condemnation and fear of Masons; as such, it should appeal to readers searching for an evenhanded look at the organization. There are no jaw-dropping revelations in here—for example, Kinney doesn’t accuse the Masons of being behind the Ripper murders, as Stephen Knight did in Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution (1976) and The Brotherhood (1984)—but that doesn’t keep the book from being fascinating reading. --David Pitt


“... a book which has the excitement of a thriller with the benefit of being factual. This is real-life (as opposed to “reality”) Freemasonry. And it’s a great story!” (Jim Tresner 33° Grand Cross, Book Review Editor, The Scottish Rite Journal)

“This should be the first book anyone reads about Freemasonry. Even those who know a lot about it will benefit from the broad and generous perspective that the founder of “Gnosis Magazine” brings to it.” (Joscelyn Godwin, Colgate University. Author of The Theosophical Enlightenment and The Golden Thread)

Kinney’s book, “Masonic Myth,” delves into the mysterioushistory of the Freemasons and carefully dispels rumors and misconceptions about the brotherhood. (beliefnet)

“The Masonic Myth finally sets the record straight about the Freemasons,revealing that the truth is far more compelling than the stories.” (bookgasm)

“Kinney does a great job of sharing a whole lot of never-before-seen inside stuff in an easilyunderstood way.” (January Magazine)

“...highly-readable and down-to-earth. Backed up by much scholarly research, Kinney methodically examines, and then busts common myths about Masons.” (Boing Boing)

“For the history buff or even the student or teacher looking for a one-volume source, this book is probably all they’ll ever need to understand the world of the Freemasons. Recommended.” (Library Journal XPress)

More About the Author

While I do not believe in reincarnation, I do feel like I've had a series of incarnations in a single lifetime. I grew up in the U.S. Midwest, attended school in New York and ended up living, since 1972 in the Bay Area. I began my creative career as a cartoonist (first published in Bijou Funnies in '68), art directed Greg Shaw's seminal rock zine, Who Put the Bomp, increasingly turned to writing and editing as the '70s progressed, first as editor for CoEvolution Quarterly, writer for the Whole Earth Catalog series, and, ultimately as publisher and editor in chief of Gnosis Magazine (1985-1999). Since the turn of the new century, much of my work has been devoted to Masonic research, culminating in my newest book, The Masonic Myth.

Customer Reviews

This book is very well written.
I'm always up for a good conspiracy theory or secret society book, so when I was given the option to review this book, I just had to get my hands on it.
Kinney handled these challenges well, with a combination of dry wit, logic, and good writing.
M. L Lamendola

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 45 people found the following review helpful By M. L Lamendola VINE VOICE on September 13, 2009
Format: Paperback
Kinney did a really good job with this book. He clearly stated his goals in the Introduction, setting expectations for the reader. Then he competently met those expectations and, in some cases, exceeded them.

Like most people, I had very little idea of what the Masonry was about (before reading this). The relatively few things published about the Masons have generally been of such dubious integrity that a discerning reader must dismiss them as agenda-driven propaganda rather than serious non-fiction on the subject.

Some of the information in the public sphere is very positive. For example, we've all seen the Shriners at the parades and are aware of their good works with Children's Hospitals. Granted, the connection to Masons is weak enough that some of us don't make it but it's still there for the observant to see.

As there's no sensationalized agenda for this work, there's no sinister plot or alarmist message to hook the reader. That's one of the "problems" with true nonfiction in general. Of course, there are exceptions--for example, when the work is about a bizarre event, a tragedy, or a famous criminal.

Writing a factual book about the Masons is a challenge in itself, for several reasons. Making it interesting is a further challenge, also for several reasons. Kinney handled these challenges well, with a combination of dry wit, logic, and good writing. From his 30 or so pages of notes, we can conclude that his work is also heavily researched. That research is especially valuable, because it wasn't from the outside looking in. He is a practicing Mason, but not just an "ordinary" one. He's the librarian and director of research for the San Francisco Scottish Rite, plus he's heavily connected in other ways.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By C. Hintz on September 12, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If asked what to read about Freemasonry, I would now answer "Gnosis (Summer 1997)" and "the Masonic Myth" both by Jay Kinney.

I read that old issue of Gnosis magazine when I first wondered about the secrets of Freemasonry. Then, a decade + later, I discovered his current book "Masonic Myth," in which Jay briefly writes about the alternative histories and mythologies that he explored in 1997. Except the current book "Masonic Myth" is based on a look at Masonic Folklore from someone (Jay) who has now spent years inside the Brotherhood. Some of it is honestly funny - it is always good to have an alchemist at a funeral or the tiler's sword would be hard pressed (literally) to cut cheese cubes. It all really comes across as the reflections of one of the better reflective thinkers in Western Traditions. Jay has certainly methodically researched the archives for his writing. And he shares a lot of that research in this book..
If you are curious, this book can be a fun - and informative - read.
If you are a conspiracy theorist, best go eat a plate of cheese cubes far from here.
Jay cuts to the chase after laying a foundation about the nebulosity of Masonic Origins. It seems to me that what Jay is saying is: "To truly know the Masonic experience is to BE a Mason."
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Kenneth Johnson on October 27, 2009
Format: Paperback
The Masonic Myth succeeds equally on several different levels, addressing readers new to Freemasonry as well as those who have studied it for years. Kinney combines an insider's mastery of the subject with an outsider's skeptical irreverence, making him a very trustworthy guide through this hall of mirrors. He addresses the concerns of readers with little knowledge of Masonry, Masons with much insider knowledge but little grasp of its historical meaning, and those who think they know a fair amount about Masonry but are confused by unreliable sources where misinformation is rife. Kinney devotes considerable attention to some of the most widely diffused misconceptions that have flourished for centuries. "Things you thought you knew about Masonry that are wrong" are scattered throughout the book and debunked persuasively. As Dan Brown's latest novel brings a new round of speculation about Freemasons' role in American history, the time is ripe for a serious explanation of Masonic myth and reality.

The first four chapters are an engagingly written, solidly researched account of the origins of the Craft. This makes the book the best place to start for anyone seeking a reliable and accessible guide to Freemasonry. The middle four chapters provide an informed account of Masonic rites, symbols, and hierarchies. As Kinney leads readers through a labyrinth of degrees and orders, his personal involvement with Masonry brings meaning to what is otherwise a bewildering landscape. Without proselytizing, Kinney conveys an appreciation for the value contemporary Masons find in the brotherhood and its not-so-secret-after-all practices.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Emily Decobert on October 6, 2009
Format: Paperback
The Freemasons is a secret society that is plagued by people determined to learn its secrets. They have been associated with many groups from the Knights Templar to Satanists and credited with great wealth and ancient wisdom. It's hard to know where to get the facts for many writers are concentrating on proving their own theories.
Jay Kinney, author of The Masonic Myth, is in a unique position to provide the reader with the hidden truth. He has spent years as an editor in chief of a Gnostic magazine, researching mysteries. He is also a Mason himself and more important, he is librarian and director of research of the San Francisco Scottish Rite. This gives him access to files and information other writers don't have.
This book traces Masonry from the first mentions of it in public literature to the present. It discusses the actual origins and how so many other groups became linked to the group. He tries to find how and when the basic rituals were included into the Craft, as the Masons call it, and where the rites are derived from. Finally, he discusses a very real issue, what the future of the Masons? Enrollment drops each year and the average age of a Mason increases.
This book was unusually conservative for a Masons book. Many writers are publishing books because they have a theory about the secret intent of the Masons and they want to share with everyone. Kinney doesn't start with a radical theory, he simply intends to give a through accounting of the Masons, sticking to fact and avoiding theory.
This book cuts away many of the `truths' factual sources often state as fact. One of the more interesting examples is the birth of the Masons. It is often reported as fact that the Masons descended from the Knight Templar.
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