Peter Levenda was born in the Bronx and lived in New York, Indiana, Chicago, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island before going to Malaysia where he lived for seven years. He has an MA in Religious Studies and Asian Studies, and has worked as an IT executive in China, Southeast Asia, Latin America and Europe (he became involved in China trade in 1984). He is a member of the American Academy of Religion, the T.E. Lawrence Society, and is a charter member of the Norman Mailer Society.
Peter Levenda's books just keep getting better and better. In this beautiful edition (featuring cover design by the buzzworthy Sarah Rainwater), Levenda attempts to answer a question he posed in Sinister Forces-The Manson Secret: A Grimoire of American Political Witchcraft (Bk. 3): "Who are we as Americans?" If this question seems intractably vague, Levenda suggests, it may be because our post-Enlightenment rationalism has willfully blinded us to the nature of national identity, which exists in the "hidden side of things" - the magic, mythic consciousness of pre-modern (pre-Modernist?) societies. We don't have to take voodoo seriously to appreciate that others do, and that it is a powerful explantory and interpretive principle in their lives. And when we ignore the power of magic and ritual, we discount the dominant psychology and causal understanding of most of humanity, for most of human history. As Levenda explains here, this included the Founders. And, whether we know it or not, it includes us as well.
The Secret Temple is an attempt to dig into the forgotten mystical soil that nurtured the roots of Enlightenment rationalism. And it's a weird trip, leading all the way from Hiram of Tyre to Salt Lake City. The broad strokes of Levenda's story will be familiar to anyone who's ever taken a look at Masonic history, but his approach is refreshingly new. He's not a Mason or initiate in any rival order. He's not an anti-Semite, a gun nut or a compulsive hand-washer, and he doesn't seem like an agent provocateur. He has a strong taste for the weird but he cares about historical detail and accuracy.Read more ›
This book is a fine survey looking at some of the historical origins of the various templar and mason movements over time. At times there are centuries that go by where the author has to make some leaps in order to connect the dots.
This did help tie a number of things together for me, how masonic orders relate to some modern day religious movements, and more about how the masons may, or may not have influenced the creation of the United States.
The author does a good job of staying in the middle, and not taking one side over another. He does give great attention to detail, where there is detail to be had. I enjoyed this book.
If you have some knowledge about Masonry, this book is a great resource. If you only have a passing interest, the attention to detail is almost painful. All in all, a well-researched, well-written source book on the history of Masonry and is formation/growth in the USA.
This book is not for people who are new to the History of Freemasonry or the Occult. Most of this book is a treatment of historiographical controversies centered on Freemasonry. Peter Levenda offers a broader(revisionist?) view of US and European History in light of his research in this book. Levenda points out the potential existential threat groups like the Freemasons represent to an open society, however, he also shows that in practice they rarely are a threat. Most conspiracy theorists won't like this book. The reviewer is not a Freemason or Occultist.