Page 18 - MFM July 2014
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Montana Freemason  July 2014	                               Volume 90 Number 2
Scholars, Authors, Writers and Hacks Oh My!

  The following responses by Arturo de Hoyos, to            The goal of scholarship is the discovery of fact and
questions asked on Facebook dealing with Masonic            truth. If our symbols and ceremonies have truth and
scholarship, authors, writers, book and papers. Review      value (as I believe they do), the discovery is worth
of this information will provide the reader with items      the effort. True scholarship is not sophistry. Just
to consider in review and evaluation of the value and       because something ‘sounds good’ or is inspirational,
credibility of such works.                                  does not make it scholarly. True scholarship requires
                                                            the rigor of investigation and does not shy away from
Swimming in Footnotes                                       peer review. There’s nothing ‘wrong’ with books
I have had several recent discussions with Brethren         that present personal opinions, if presented as such.
regarding scholarship, and why source documentation         Perhaps the author found something meaningful in
is so vital. First, I can do no better than quote my very   his interpretation of a bit of ritual, but to take personal
dear friend, Bro. Alain Bernheim, whom I consider one       opinion and wave it like the lead flag in a parade as the
of the greatest Masonic scholars, ever: “S’il respecte      ‘new standard’ of Masonry is simply folly. Don’t chase
ses lecteurs, l’historien responsable indiquera toujours    a bright flag like a bull in the arena, simply because it
les sources qui lui auront permis d’établir son récit.”     attracts your attention. We all know how it ends up for
(If he respects his readers, the responsible historian      the bull. Read, employ your critical faculties, question,
always indicates the sources which have enabled him         and repeat.
to establish his account.)                                  Masonic Sense and Non-Sense
Source citation must be ‘user friendly.’ It must help the   This is a topic about which I’ve written before, but it
reader verify that what you have written is accurate.       cannot be overemphasized. The ‘mysterious origins’
This is why a full and complete bibliography is             and vast symbols of Freemasonry lend themselves
necessary. Editions, volumes, and page numbers are          to speculation, some valuable, most not so much.
important.                                                  Some embrace the notion that the mere popularity
On the other hand, hucksters may denounce the value         of a Masonic author somehow makes him a scholar.
of academic practices, denouncing scholarly works as        Similarly, there’s a notion that Masonic authors who
‘dry.’ Hucksters may also intentionally obscure facts       claim to offer ‘special insights’ into the meaning and/or
or offer vague or unverifiable information, which is        purposes of Masonry, or who purport to reveal hidden
later declared as accurate. Or, they may prefer to write    traditions must be scholars. Finally there is a belief
about topics which cannot be verified, or are their own     that any academic credentials legitimize Masonic ideas
particular ‘discovery’ and have no other supporting         and/or publications. All these notions are mistaken.
evidence. It is true that occasional confidential or        Consider the book “The Hiram Key.” Its clever (but
private sources may be used, but the writer must always     mistaken) theory was that the Hiramic legend was
be up-front about this to the reader.                       based on the disputed assassination of the ancient
If the works you are reading do not lend themselves to      Egyptian Pharaoh Seqenenre Tao II. The authors
critical review and verification, or, they offer ideas and  used the language of the post-1813 English Masonic
notions which are merely arguable, it may be that what      ritual to assert that the wounds on the mummy were
you are reading is not true. Remember, you can learn        accounted for in Masonic legends. They claimed the
to swim through a sea of footnotes, but you cannot          Hiram legend was an ancient Egyptian ‘oral tradition’
swim in vapor and mist. It’s about making Masons            that passed down the millennia until it became part
smarter and stronger.                                       of Freemasonry, when it was converted into our
The notion that Freemasonry’s symbols and ceremonies        present tradition (and in so doing so they ignored the
can be interpreted in any way one chooses, and that         old Noachite legend, which was the antecedent of the
any interpretation is as valid as the next, is simply       Hiramic legend).
nonsense. Masonic ritual is not a Rorschach test, for       Not only did the wounds not match up correctly, but
the projection of one’s fancy. The symbols were chosen      their story actually contradicts the earliest Masonic
precisely because they conceal and convey particular        rituals (such as Prichard’s “Masonry Dissected,” 1730),
meaning, like a ship laden with cargo. Merely wishing       which would have represented an earlier -- and thus
that the cargo is something different will not change       more accurate -- version of this so-called ‘oral tradition.’
what it is. Similarly, expressing personal opinions         But perhaps the most startling aspect of their theory is
*Piange p18rint* does not qualify someone as a ‘scholar.’   their claim that they somehow discovered an ancient
                                                            legend (for which they never offer *any proof*), and
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