One of the finest new books you’ll find on freemasonry is Shawn M. Gorley’s recent book, “Freemasonry Defined: Using History to Understand the Fraternity.”
Released in November, this 129-page book is a must-read for Masons who are interested in learning more about what makes the Masonic fraternity special and why it has survived for centuries, often in the face of powerful enemies. Many of us are familiar with the major historical events that have helped shape the fraternity over the years, and I expected Gorley to rehash many these subjects in his book. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Gorley offered so much more between the covers of “Freemasonry Defined.”
Not only did he discuss relatively well-known subjects like Anti-Masonry and the Morgan Affair as well as the significance of the “Forget Me Not” flower pin, but Gorley also offered up dozens of interesting, but lesser known, Masonic stories to illustrate his points and ideas. Gorley does so skillfully, and a close reading of his book makes the depth of his Masonic scholarship very apparent.
Stories in the book that Masons can look forward to reading include Civil War Masonic stories like John Elliott Hart’s Masonic burial by brothers across enemy lines and the unique life of Ely S. Parker, a Native American, who beat the odds to become a Mason, a Union officer and a close friend of future president Ulysses S. Grant. Gorley also details the lesser-known story of how the “Blue Slipper” lapel pin for women came to be and the sufferings of John Custos, a Swiss Mason who fell into the hands of the Inquisition.
Gorley also provides unique facts about how freemasonry helped form many American universities and promoted free public education across the country. He also takes a fascinating look at the dark times surrounding European freemasonry and the rise of Nazism in the years leading up to World War II.
Gorley is especially well suited to write this book. A frequent contributor to “The Working Tools Masonic Magazine,” he is also a Master Masonic Scholar and Certified Lecturer for the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. An editor for Lewis Masonic, a 213-year-old publishing company that specializes in books about freemasonry, Gorley is also a book review editor for the Bonisteel Masonic Library, and he owns the Masonic education Web site, www.drivenbylight.net.
“Freemasonry Defined” left me feeling motivated and inspired to do more as a Mason. It made me want to do more for my lodge and to find ways to make lodge meetings more meaningful and memorable. As Gorley points out in his book, the aim of freemasonry is to make good men better, and you’ll definitely be better off having read this fine book.
In the end, I highly recommend “Freemasonry Defined” to all Masons in the reading audience, especially to Masons looking for fresh examples of the best that freemasonry has to offer. Copies of the book are available through Amazon.com and www.drivenbylight.net. “Freemasonry Defined” will make a fine addition to any Mason’s personal library and will also make a great gift for the Mason in your family or in your circle of brothers.