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The Builders: A Story and Study of Freemasonry Paperback – May 3, 2017
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Published in 1914, The Builders is an introduction into the Masonic history and philosophy.
"One of the most readable introductions to Masonic history and philosophy, including (for once) a factual account of how Freemasonry emerged in the 18th century."
The Ante-Room; Prophecy; Foundations; Working Tools; Drama of Faith; Secret Doctrine; Collegia; History of EA, FC, and MM Degrees; Grand Lodge of England; Universal Masonry; What is Masonry; Masonic Philosophy; The Spirit of Masonry.
"This is a general survey of Masonic origins, history and philosophy. It was at one time given to every new Mason in Iowa, probably a better choice than Morals and Dogma, which is almost three times as long and much more difficult reading. This is a scholarly but approachable treatment of Masonry and will be enlightening both to practicing Freemasons and a general audience. Newton is a rationalist and deflates claims of an ancient origin for Masonry per se; rather he illuminates the historical precedents of the group. He starts with ancient Egypt, not because he believes that the Egyptians had functioning Masonic lodges, but because that is where monumental architecture began. He covers the ancient mystery religions, and the true origin of Masonry in organizations of medieval stone-masons. After a period of decline, a London meeting held in 1717 at the Goose and Gridiron Alehouse united the remaining four Lodges of England, and started modern Freemasonry. The two-tier organization proliferated into three, and then multiple degrees, during the 18th and 19th centuries, eventually resulting in modern Freemasonry. Masonry, which had started as an underground association of building trade workers, evolved into a fraternal group which included both members of the English royal family and American revolutionaries. Despite his rational stance, Newton is rhapsodic about the progressive influence of the Masonic movement and philosophy, both for individuals seeking 'the lost word', and for society as a whole. Newton claims that the world has benefited greatly because of the Masonic ideals of liberty, fraternity and equality. The Builders tells the Masonic side of this story."
Hope this helps someone
Newton also provides an interesting theory of Freemasonry's origins; he suggests it originated from the Roman Collegia, the society of master builders and architects. His research is very good, even if you don't accept all his conclusions.
Apart from Newton's prose, I found the footnotes and bibliography in this free download particularly useful. They provide references to a number of older books and publications which modern readers might not otherwise come across. After reading this e-book, I'm definitely going to try to track down some of the items listed in the footnotes and bibliography.
There are some other useful features in this e-book that one doesn't usually find in free downloads. The index contains anchor links to the text, so one can move easily from the index to the passage referenced by each index entry. That's very useful and is rare in e-books that are free downloads. My compliments to whoever included this feature in this free e-book.
Overall, I highly recommend this free download to anyone interested in Freemasonry. I'll be downloading more of Joseph Fort Newton's books after reading this one.