Once again Harrison publishes a book about old Masonic texts. About I must stress as we will see.
The concerning texts is a collection of Masonic rituals made by Richard Carlile (1790-1843) under the title Manual Of Freemasonry (first published 1845).
The book begins with Carlile, a political radical and not a Freemason (!) who wanted to educate the general public about a variety of subjects, including Freemasonry.
Carlile proves to be a good investigator with good sources and a keen insight in the symbolism and workings of Freemasonry. He compiled 30 rituals, including the three “craft degrees” (entered apprentice, fellowcraft, master mason). They are not presented as one system, Carlile compiled degrees from all kinds of systems. Besides, in these days, may degrees not all really were part of a system. The compilation does show what degrees were ‘worked’ in these days of course.
So you get ‘high degrees’, ‘side degrees’, many degrees that are now part of the Ancient And Accepted Scottish Rite, etc., etc. Unfortunately Harrison chose to only retell the stories of the degrees, rather than printing the texts that Carlile has published.
The historical part is somewhat interesting. The short stories of the degrees is only mildly so. What is of more interest is that Harrison shows how Carlile ordered his degrees so that there is some sort of developing story throughout the degrees.
It seems that again I have to conclude that the author appears to have much more information available than what he presents is this little book (just a little over 100 pages of text). Harrisons books would be much more interesting if he did not compress his information into tiny books such as this one.
Do I have to say that this book will only be interesting for people either ‘going through’ Masonic degrees and/or interested in their histories?
2020 Lewis Masonic, isbn 9780853185710