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Waste of Time
on April 25, 2014
I can only really address my complaints about this book concerning a very small part of this monstrosity. At some point in reviewing books you have to decide why you’re spending time critiquing books that pretend to be serious works in religion but that, in fact, aren’t. I’ve honestly spent much too time thinking about this book knowing all along that it doesn’t deserve my time, nor anyone elses (at least in terms of their discussions about Judaism/Christianity).
There’s something you should do if you decide to read this book. Decide to write in the book the letter ‘S’ with a circle around it at all points of their argumentation. 'S' implies speculation. They actually have a way to show you when they’re speculating. They always ask a question of which the format resembles something like, “Could this have been x?” or “Can y have led to z?” or “Is it possible that a knew about b or c and that c led to d & e?” At those spots of questioning and other speculative assertions, mark your book with the letter “S.” After you’re done reading, go back through the book and just look at the absolute myriad of S’s you will find. These speculations function as hinges to move the authors on to their next point of their argument. In many cases these speculative hinges aren’t just small issues here or there, they’re often big links in the chain of their arguments (Cf. LVX rosy-cross’s review of The Hiram Key for how this speculative logic is hinged together. This review hit the nail on the head with this point).
The basic theme of the book is that the authors teamed up to research the origins and meanings of some Masonic rituals. They believe, essentially, that these rituals preserve the most ancient oral traditions of the western world (1). Much of the book is set to link these oral tradition narratives through centuries and through people group to people group. They think there is some ancient scientific knowledge to be gained by learning these traditions (7). It is their belief that the degrees of masonry are telling the stories through the sequence of Masonic degrees (23). They came to interpret the lore of masonry as astronomical (24). The authors assert that the stories told in these Masonic rituals are also key to ancient near eastern (et. al) structures, particularly the Temple of Solomon and pre-dating Phoenician structures.
The ‘historical’ story starts with what the authors term the “Grooved Ware People” (GWP), who they believe arrived on the island of Britain perhaps in the 5th century BC. They are known by their ‘megalithic’ structures and the symbols they etch in some of these structures. Basically the authors debate some archaeological evidence and come to conclude that the GWP were a group of people with a priestly caste that were heavily involved in astronomy/astrology. They fundamentally build on Alexander Thom’s idea of the “Megalithic Yard, which is a unit of measurement of which there is some debate about its origin. The authors say it is highly mathematical and precise, and thus since it is found all over parts of Europe/ANE, this must mean these people have been to these places and established their religion/’archaeoastronomy’ in these places. They note other apparent mathematical similarities between GWP and other cultures such as Egypt.
How this connects with Judaism is that they believe the book of Enoch refers to Enoch actually traveling to the GWP in Britain and learning their archaeoastronomical techniques and beliefs. Why they believe the Book of Enoch is in any way historical is never explained, nor is it explained why the particular piece in the book is taken at face value and historical (well, obviously because it would prove their bigger thesis). The place where Enoch apparently travels (Newgrange) is involved in Venus worship. So, Enoch goes back to Jerusalem, established some type of temple dedicated to Venus/Sun worship, Solomon and the diggers of the temple discover it, and now we’re back to this religious link of the GWP all throughout the ANE. Oh, but these aren’t actually historical stories. They’re just legends. What parts are legends and what parts are true and how you do you determine which is which? Well, that’s easy. Just beg the question. Go ahead and have your conclusion out, ready to use at any moment’s notice, because each piece of evidence will always need an interpretation! And isn’t it always smart to interpret your evidence in light of your conclusion?
They then begin to associate sexual orgies/traditions with the idea of death/resurrection and the Venus Cycle. Seeing similar things in other ANE cultures (ideas of king-making around sex and astronomical bodies, etc.), they come to believe that these oral traditions are being spread over the ancient western world. They describe their conclusions regarding this: “we could imagine a belief that when a king or other major dignitary died their remains were kept in whole, or in part, and taken into the chamber on the day before the winter solstice. Alongside this a woman, previously inseminated at the festival held at the vernal equinox and now heavily pregnant, was also taken into the chamber with the remains of the deceased to await the coming of the light of Venus. The ghostly light in the chamber would have been deemed to reincarnate the spirits of the dead within the birthing infant. Minutes later the warm glow of the life-giving Sun would celebrate the resurrection of the deceased person in their new form as a child” (45-46). The authors believe that the witnesses to this event would’ve believed that their new kings were coming back to life in these birth cycles, thus, identifying the kings/rulers with the gods. And it is this type of belief - a reincarnation of sorts - that links these various ANE cultures with one another (Phoenician, Sumerian, Egyptian, and Jewish). Therefore, this Venus/sun/astrology was the fundamental belief of a class of priests that existed throughout these centuries. Their techniques, sciences, rituals, etc. were passed down through these classes and eventually became what we call Freemasonry in one form or another. Israel is the big linchpin in the picture, and the authors believe that there at least was a secret, underground class of priests who took part in Venus/sun worship. Eventually these early Freemasons live on, to become Knights Templars, who steal hidden Temple treasure buried in Jerusalem, head north, marry into Norse kings, intertwine their respective theologies and then build Rosslyn Chapel, where these treasures or other scrolls may be hidden.
Aagin, Israel becomes the linchpin, because not only do the Phoenicians have this incredible talent in masonry and building, but they also (as successors of the GWP) have the secret astrological science of Venus/worship and king-making. So, Solomon isn’t *really* just buying their materials and builders. He wants in on the method of becoming a god. Ask how Solomon would’ve believed he can become a god, when the very Deuteronomic principles that make up his monotheism decry such a silly notion, and the authors just simply ask the question of whether this type of adherence to a strict monotheism is just mere postrationalisation. Is there any evidence for that? None whatsoever - absolutely none, but soon this speculation becomes an argument accepted as fact (cf. 99). Eventually we are led to Jesus (of course) who also serves as an important linchpin for Masonic secrets.
One other thing: The last part of the book consists of what the authors call “The Masonic Testament.” The MT is a made-up document by the authors, compiled of Masonic material on how their material spread throughout history (or what some individual masons have believed). This book is treated as a historical document by these authors and yet there is no actual evidence for any of the things that occur in the MT (other than some similarities with biblical accounts, which the authors actually decry as fictitious!). More on this in a second.
First, what are some of the good things about the book? Very little, unfortunately. It is a good introduction to some of the facts about Masonic history (as far as I know). And the story is somewhat entertaining and you kind of root for it to be true in the way that you root for a massive underdog who you know is going to lose. The picture they paint of secret knowledge and cults, existing underground throughout history is kind of cool to wonder about, basically. And I have no doubt that ancient rituals could exist for thousands of years, primarily orally. Actually, I have not one iota of doubt. Has this happened in the way the authors lay out? Well, would I bet my money on it? I’d probably bet against them - not my entire fortune, but probably a lot of it.
As far as the history section of their book goes and European/Jewish families/Rosslyn Chapel/Knights Templar history I just do not have any comments on. Other reviewers have commented (see the reviews of The Hiram Key) and it’s probably best to look there for that type of information. What I can offer is some brief comments on the portions of the Book of Hiram that deal with the biblical material. And I would say that if their treatment of the historical materials is equivalent to their handling of the biblical materials then this book is completely useless.
Two, big, initial critiques stand out. First, why accept Masonic documents/books as historical and not the biblical accounts? Especially Masonic MSS *ABOUT* the biblical MSS?! As I said, they compiled some random facts in some Masonic books into what they called the Masonic Testament. In other words, it’s a made up book. Then the authors cite over and over what is in the MT as somehow evidence of historical events. Anyone see a problem there? Yes. A ridiculous one? Yes.
My initial, second critique concerns the choice of the biblical stories, their research and their methods of scholarship. First, as professedly intelligent men who apparently teach college courses and have been involved in higher education, they certainly have forgotten how to cite sources. Very few sources are cited in a very large book and what sources are cited, they’re often incomplete, lacking page numbers here and there, or lacking the year of publication or what have you (and apparently at some point geocities became a website of biblical scholarship). Secondly, their choice of biblical commentators shows an unnecessary bias towards liberal biblical scholarship, and actually, fairly old and outdated liberal biblical scholarship. Related to this is their citation of many biblical commentaries which show these authors dealt in no way with biblical scholarship in any meaningful fashion that is later than 1980 (yes there are some commentaries cited from after 1980, but the thrust of their arguments are from older commentaries and biblical scholars). Just a hint - when you look at authors that keep citing biblical sources from the middle of the last century to perhaps early-mid twentieth century to even nineteenth century biblical scholars, you are seeing someone beginning with a thesis and trying to find evidence (any evidence) to corroborate it. Rather than beginning with current biblical scholarship and research, they start backwards. Their books should be corrected by the latest biblical scholarship, not the opposite.
In fact, there’s just an odd treatment of scripture in general. The way they deal with the historicity of the narratives or the people is confusing at best and atrocious at worst. For instance, on the one hand, Enoch was a literal person, who went to England to learn the secrets of the GWP. But on the other hand, “It is almost as certain that the character known as Enoch is a composite made up of distant cultural memories that belong to the groups of people who long pre-dated the emergence of the Hebrew people. As such his life cannot be dated in an historical way . . .” (45). And yet, if you *do* take his life as an historical account, then suddenly “it places Enoch on Earth at exactly the time that Newgrange was designed and built” (45)! So, did someone go to Newgrange or not? If not Enoch, then who? Why think there is anything historical about this at all?! Virtually every biblical narrative/historical figure is treated in this manner.
Solomon’s temple is legendary, but their history in their own made up book tells us more about Solomon and the Temple, they believe. It’s a reversal of historical sources. Suddenly, their compiled resource is more knowledgeable about the biblical texts than is the biblical text themselves. This odd treatment of biblical sources is seen in the plans of the Jewish Temple. The authors note that it is Phoenicians who built the Temple of God. Ok - fine, the Bible agrees. But the Bible also says (1 Ch. 28:11-19) God gave the inspiration for these plans. If the whole story is unhistorical, then there’s no reason to think that Canaanites built Solomon’s Temple (or that there was a temple). Yet if we take the history at face value, then we know that God inspired David with the dimensions of the Temple, and thus it is irrelevant who actually built it, so long as it was to these specifications. So, what do the authors want to do - take the story as historical or not? They do neither/both. It’s historical when it fits their theory and not historical when it doesn’t fit their theory. This is a running method of how the biblical texts are handled in their work.
Historical figures are treated this way as well. They treat OT figures as if they were mythical (David), citing the old archaeological argument. Yet, We have evidence of David’s existence (Tel Dan Inscription). They complain that the Tel Dan stela is 200 years after the event as if that is some argument that David didn’t exist. Yet, 200 years, when looking for historical evidence, is actually not that far away. But they miss the point - if the story of the reign of David comes *after* the exile, existing in the form of some fairy tale, then why the stela only 200 years after the reign of David, which is BEFORE the Babylonian exile?!
Their treatment of Melchizedek/Abraham narrative is similar. In fact the whole argument of the book is just flippant speculation. They use the biblical figures throughout the book as if they’re real people. Reading along you can at least *see* how this secret Masonic Venus worship information was passed through the biblical culture - I mean, the people involved, the historical events involved, etc. But, the acceptance of these people as historical figures is a mistake according to the authors. This means they actually have ZERO, actual, historical information about how this information was transmitted through Jewish culture, considering most of what we have to go on is the Jewish Bible. Thus, the book is about 300 pages too long. They should’ve just written, “Since these aren’t historical people, we don’t know how this stuff was actually transmitted” and closed the chapter instead of writing a few hundred pages of how this secret information passed through Jewish culture and religion *as if* they actually existed. What’s the point in that?! That’s not even good writing, it just wastes the reader’s time. Why not just write, “Hey, we don’t believe these were historical figures and so we don’t know how this was transmitted.” It baffles me. They vacillate between the biblical narratives, offering suggestions as to how/when and by whom these rituals would’ve been passed, but at the end of the day, they don’t believe any of the narratives themselves! So, why bother bloviating about historical possibilities when you never believed they happened in the first place?! They speculate about Melchizedek passing on Canaanite religion/Venus worship to Abram, and then just build on this as if it’s a historical fact of how Masonic lore was transmitted, but they don’t believe it actually happened in history. It’s one of those grab-the-upper-part-of-your-nose-with-your-thumb-and-index-finger-and-look-down-shaking-your-head type of moments. But it gets more ridiculous, because after telling you they don’t think these were actual historical figures, they go on to say something like “If the priest-king Melchizedek of Salem is a historical figure, we can be reasonably sure that this type of annual ritual would have been conducted by him…[a Masonic ritual]” (123). And to top this narrative off - while Abraham (who never really existed) was tithing to Melchizedek (who may have existed, but certainly never met Abraham because he didn’t exist), Melchizedek went to have sex with Abraham’s wife (who never existed; cf. 133). Now wrap your head around that one. And this is the method of the authors: Introduce the narratives from the Bible that you’re drawing from, then say, “Oh, btw, these weren’t *real* people,” find some Masonic lore that is associated with these imaginary people and then say “Oh, but *IF* these were real people, they would’ve used/known about/passed on the knowledge of Venus worship.” They blame David/Solomon for carrying on Canaanite/Venus worship traditions, and they don’t believe they were real people! So, pray tell, who DID carry on these traditions and where is your *actual* evidence?! They ask, “might the method of Jewish king-making that Hiram sold to Solomon be hidden in a Masonic ‘kenning’” (153)? But, the people don’t exist! So there’s no point in asking the question in the first place! Either treat the narratives as historical or not historical, not as either/or whenever it suits your purposes to do so. In fact, they spend a whole chapter on speculating on what ritual and secret knowledge Solomon got from Hiram, and yet he didn’t exist. A complete waste of my time to read a chapter about secret knowledge that a non historical figure may have gotten from a potential historical figure.
Here is an incomplete list of other biblical errors made by the authors.
a) The assertion that there is a ‘Hiram’ in 2 Ch. 2:11-14 - it is either “Huram-Abi” or “Huram,” and this is “close to the name Hiram Abif” as the authors say (17). I guess close enough is all that matters. But, again, is this an actual, historical figure or not?! If so, why not the rest of the narrative?! If the rest of the narrative isn’t historical, by what criteria are you selecting the historical parts vs. the unhistorical parts?
b) Their wholesale acceptance of liberal biblical scholarship - JEDP theory (45). Much more recent scholarship is actually looking at the biblical narratives as a whole again, rather thanpiecing them apart in such a radical manner as Wellhausen did.
c) Yahweh is a storm god (80). Patently false.
d) The light of Venus is the glory of God (85). Again - theory reading into the biblical narratives.
e) Solomon’s Temple functions as did Newgrange. “It allows the sun in, but actually its more important role was to admit the light of Venus” (88). False, the glory of God was the Shekinah. Can the authors ever explain how the light of Venus goes behind the two curtains in the temple to reach the Mercy Seat?!
f) They think a real priest line of Melchizedek existed based on Heb. 5:6 - and yet it’s not clear that he’s a historical figure.
g) The idea that Melchizedek worshiped Canaanite gods and transmitted these to Abraham, when the whole point of the passage is that they apparently worship the same God (Yahweh) - seen by the use of the name “El Elyon” and “Yahweh El Elyon” by Melchizedek and Abraham respectively. There’s no need to speculate that some secret Masonic science was passed between the two.
h) The idea that Yahweh came from merging Canaanite gods (124)
i) The idea that Ps. 119 is about Canaanite material based on sun worship (from one scholar in 1958).
j) Global warming wiped out the Canaanites; not the Israelites. The Moses story is made up (and then treated later by the authors as an actual historical figure arbitrarily).
k) The idea that the named Hebrew derived from the word Apiru, and thus, the Israelites were Canaanites. We know where the name Hebrew came from - from one of Abraham’s descendants, Eber. This is based on outdated biblical scholarship. Again, it’s their theory before actual investigation.
l) The idea that Jesus was 40 years old when he was crucified (because Jesus *must* have been born and killed during a Venus cycle don’t you know. Forget letting evidence speak for itself. We’ll make Jesus’ entire life fit within our time frame). The fact is we have good evidence of when Jesus lived and when he died and he did not live until he was 40 to 36 AD. Venus cycles appear in these years and the authors try to make biblical data fit their needed criteria for Jesus to be a link in their system, but the dates altogether fail and thus their link of secrete Masonic information passage breaks.
So, to sum up, I can see no reason to recommend this book to anyone (other than for entertainment purposes). To anyone without the background of biblical knowledge, this will only reinforce false ideas about the biblical narratives and history. To someone who doesn’t have the critical thinking schools to reason through a 500 page book, this will no doubt look and sound scholarly. Again, unless there is some redeemable European history of Masonic transmission to be found in this work, I see virtually no reason to even consider reading this.