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Montana Freemason                        February 2013      Volume 86 Number 1

                                Book Review
                   The Real Origins of Freemasonry

                                 Daniel Gardiner (3)

The Genesis of Freemasonry                                  The Foundations of Modern Freemasonry
      by David Harrison                                                    by Richard Berman

  This book started life as a PhD thesis. That Doctoral          This book is everything the previously reviewed
dissertation suffered numerous problems which were           book should have been. Like the former, it began life
replicated in the book.                                     as a PhD thesis. Unlike it, however, this book stands
                                                            out for its scholarship.
     I found the original thesis to be sorely lacking
references. Here is one representative example: “…              Berman and Harrison both claim to deal with the
both Desaguliers and Anderson were active in a              same period in Masonic history. Yet while Harrison
mysterious society called ‘Solomon’s Temple,’ which         is making unsupported parallels between Templar
met in Hemmings Row, with Desaguliers appointed             gravestones, alchemy, magic, and necromancy,
as Master of the society in 1725,” -- with no footnote. I   Berman is successfully discussing the evidence.
found myself wanting to find out more about this, but
this statement cannot be verified without a source.            It is the contention of the author that, in opposition
                                                            to the “transition theory” origin, the group of men
    In addition to lack of sources, the author carries      who organized the “Revival” of 1717 were largely a
over factual inaccuracies from his PhD to his book.         completely different group of men, united in pursuit of
For example, of Isaac Newton’s funeral, he says, “…a        common personal and political goals, that assimilated
host of Freemasons revered him, such as Voltaire, who       the pre-existing identity of the Accepted Masons and
attended his funeral in 1727.” Scholarship presently        reshaped it into a publicly acknowledged, popular,
shows Voltaire to have been a death-bed joiner of           and fashionably patronized fraternal secret society
Freemasonry in 1778.                                        that spawned what exists today.

   One review, by Robert Peter, PhD, points out that,            Much of our current analysis of Freemasonry is
“The book lacks some sine quanon elements of a PhD          based on work now 50-150 years old, and with very
thesis. For instance, it does not have a literature review  little added as we get closer to the present that has
of any kind and no method(ology) is introduced to           materially challenged anything from 50-75 years ago.
answer the research question. The main arguments of         Berman has taken advantage of all of the privileges of
the book do not reflect the current state of research in    contemporary (2010 thesis) university education and
this field…” I agree with Peter’s assessment.               access to primary sources, and it shows.

      The book consistently makes unproven claims                One of the interesting things that Berman has
about magic, alchemy, and Masonry, such as this:            demonstrated in his book and dissertation is a co-
“Desaguliers and Anderson set about to revise the           mingling between the Loyalist government via the
ritual, and like Dee’s magical rituals, the use of          Whig party, with the early Grand Lodge Officers. This
mathematics, geometry, necromancy, and magical              was established through examination of several sets of
symbols, all played an important part....”                  data through contemporary newspapers. The result is
                                                            that anyone promoting a “Jacobite conspiracy” theory
       When published as a book, the dissertation           origin for Freemasonry (usually involving the Knights
borrowed its title from the Genesis of Freemasonry          Templar) will need to tackle Berman’s evidence first.
by Bro. Douglas Knoop, PhD, frequent collaborator
with Jones and Hamer. The choice is a pity, as the               Unfortunately, Harrison’s work is plagued with
dissertation reads like pop history, is disjointed, full    problems, and should be avoided. Anyone ready to
of mistakes, and an exception to the high quality           move on from Pike and Mackey should add Berman
scholarship expected from a Doctoral thesis.                to PhD’s Andrew Prescott and Pink.

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