THE ROLE OF THE MASONIC

RESEARCH “E-LIBRARY”

By Ralph W. Omholt

         In the first decade of the 21st Century, the world cultures are facing the requirement of a new discipline – “Information Management.” Freemasonry is as challenged in that regard, as any institution. But, where does one even begin?

          As W. Brother Mark Tabbot illustrates, there is a certain demand/mandate for the electronic archiving of Masonic records; an ambitious and laudable task, to be certain. With the marvels of the computer age, such a monumental task is achievable. Yet there is a more immediate demand – primary Masonic education. In modern times, that task mandates the formation of Masonic “E-Libraries;” accessible through the Internet. The immediate question goes to the priority of such material.

As has been said in so many ways, few members know very much about the Craft, beyond the routine of the ‘ritual.’ The Craft is losing both participation and membership, as “Masonry” is typically identified by rather routine ritual and the conduct of Lodge ‘business.’ The term “boring” is often employed in that regard. Where is the excitement which once crowded Masonic events of all types? That excitement has to be resurrected; fitted to a nearly radically evolved society.

Freemasonry is desperate for a renaissance – but, what would that look like? If one knows nothing of what once created a world-class excitement, what ‘change’ can be anticipated?

Too few members appreciate the magnitude of Masonic ignorance; and its role in the declining membership. Unfortunately, that ignorance is typical of all the Masonic bodies. Consider the price; count the empty seats in the typical Masonic  meeting – of any Masonic body! The problem is easily quantified.

          The answers to the more popular questions point to the relative non-availability of pertinent Masonic information, compounded by a prominent apathy toward any particular Masonic culture. That, of course illustrates the demand for Masonic education – add entertainment and the cultural features of the Craft. Masonry has its art, poetry, music, entertainment and certainly its history. Where is it to be readily discovered? There’s the challenge.

History is vital to any group, in terms of “He who knows and understands the past; knows the future.” The constancy of human nature dictates that truth. The technology and monuments to history change; the importance of history does not. Recombine the culture and history of the Craft; and you have a winning combination – with appropriate adjustments for social alterations, such as the prejudice against smoking and drinking; add the ‘substitutive’ nature of modern television and the Internet.

The mandate is to leave anyone in contact with the Craft with the persuasion, “I go there, because I feel so good when I leave!”

The value of Freemasonry is to be discovered in its past. With regard to the successful fraternity of Freemasonry, the descriptor “…. Back to the future” is a vital concept. Masonic history betrays a success formula; if it can be discovered.

Yet there is an impending dilemma – the information is contained within a broad expanse of libraries, which are typically locked up, with few local members or officers in possession of significant Masonic education. There is where electronic access to Masonic history truly becomes a “mandate.”

History and its functioning knowledge are that important. Add intuition to knowledge, one then encounters what is routinely referred to as “wisdom.”

The Masonic fraternity brags of tens of thousands of books, yet few know the approximate quantity of books, let alone the topics and titles of such works – add ignorance of the contents!

          Imagine trying to make Freemasonry attractive to a doctor, lawyer or professor. What can be employed as the critical message, within an anticipated 20-second attention span? Think to the enticement of offering to E-mail him the appropriate book(s). Imagine that, “E-Mailing” a person a book – we’ve come that far!

          Freemasonry even offers ‘Hollywood” excitement in such movies as “The Man Who Would be King” and “National Treasure.” The movie, “The DaVinci Code,” prominently illustrated some of the Masonic history. No doubt, the upcoming movie, “Angels and Demons,” will increase the interest in Masonic history. Masonic history should be a nearly infinite source of excitement for Masons, in particular – add potential members. As of late, it’s not. The ‘peak experience’ of Masonic excitement should be discovered in a Lodge room, not a commercial theater or from a DVD of fiction.

          The upcoming movie, “Angels and Demons,” will be addressing the association of the “Illuminati” to the Craft. There is hardly enough association in history to talk about, yet, who is prepared to authoritatively answer the obvious questions? And, those questions will arise. How many Masons are remotely prepared to offer accurate information?

         If there is a single ‘treasure’ to be had in Freemasonry, the element of “passion” is that treasure; the history books clearly leave that legacy. Yet, without access and investment into the Masonic literature, the Lodge and Chapter meetings are nominally beyond a structured and boring business meeting. ‘Excellence in ritual’ is one source for that passion, education, research and ‘discovery’ add to the experience. In that process, the element of “fellowship” must be there.

          Studying the past will yield the future; no information + no study = no future! It’s that simple.

          Read Masonic history! The Craft used to be a major source of entertainment, excitement, social opportunity, career opportunity, public recognition and personal pride. People threw major percentages of their income into the Craft – the payback was worth the investment. Then, over time, something changed.

          In the modern world of high-quality television and the Internet, Freemasonry competes for the discretionary time of an entire populace. The Craft can still be an exciting and entertaining place – but how would anyone know?

          Masonically, the color “blue” is associated with ‘fidelity.’ Why do they call a Lodge of Master Masons a “Blue Lodge?” Nobody knows – they didn’t bother looking for the answer! (Coil’s Encyclopedia for starters.) Except for the general non-availability of the historical literature, the situation could be called “incredibly absurd.”  Yet, if nothing changes, the situation will continue to be “undeniably absurd.”

          In a world of PC-induced social catatonia (shutting down), what of Masonic fellowship? No one seems to even have an operating definition of “fellowship,” with the solution being in the history of Freemasonry, begging re-discovery and adaptation to modern cultures. (“Fellowship” – The giving and sharing of tangible and intangible ‘gifts’, as well as resources, among a number of people.”) {One viable definition.}

As the greatest of Masonic books literally decay in locked libraries and book cases, there is a fear, nigh unto threat, of a permanent loss of Freemasonry’s literary and fraternal greatness. Now, given the wonders of computers, it is possible to re-print those same books, on fresh paper. Much is yet to be done. The Craft can recover; all it takes is a set of adaptation measures for the current culture. It starts with researching the past – if one can!

Being both responsible and objective, it must be acknowledged that there is that certain “gray shield,” which slows the progress of the Craft into the 21st Century. In the last three years, advance copies of the E-Library, listed below, have been given to Grand Masters of the U.S. and Canada – but, who has heard of these files? Among Masons, ‘change’ is regarded as almost a reference to an obscenity. Ironically, the Masonic academicians know that the Craft has been in a constant state of ‘change,’ since its beginning. Perhaps the adaptations of the Craft have occurred so slowly, that the ‘change’ is little noticed; and not regarded in the stereotypical perspective of ‘change.’ Given modern technology, the required educational adaptation is both necessary and easy.

It is highly doubtful that computer screens will ever be an effective substitute for ‘hard-copy.’ (That’s what the ‘print’ button is for!) As it stands, when it comes to Masonic literature, the availability of the hard-bound volumes is limited by the quantitative survival of the oldest of the Masonic books; and their physical access. The good news is that, slowly, the electronic availability of Masonic books is increasing. The obvious immediate advantage to electronic information is that the content can be very easily printed. Many of the ‘key’ texts are available as re-prints, however lacking in quality and somewhat expensive.

“More” electronic conversion is needed. Most importantly, more “access” is needed; be it research computer stations, or books downloadable from the Internet.

It is academic that the ‘modern’ generation of Masons demands ‘Point-‘n-Click” access to Masonic information. Beyond raw ‘convenience, electronic files can be converted to any form, including language translation and ‘text-to-speech’ conversion, for the sight impaired. Eventually, that can be translated into a human voice production, on par with regular audio E-Books.

It must be mentioned that the enterprise of scanning of books into text-files (not PDF files) has its share of ‘secrets.’ They are few and easy – but powerful. It is possible to easily scan 150 pages per hour – assuming a hymnal sized book; versus a 12” X 18” book. The key resource is the element of manual labor and the associated persistence and/or devotion.

The currently available electronic files represent some of the best volumes available; ranging from Anderson’s Constitutions through, Preston, Webb, Cross, the Mackey Encyclopedia and Mackey’s history. Add some of the works of modern British writers, such as Bernard Jones and Harry Carr. The range of topics extends into the concordant bodies, as well.

The electronic files, listed below, have been produced in the hope of a higher quality environment for the modern Craft; certainly the future of Freemasonry demands it!

It must be mentioned that in the USA, material used for legitimate research (not for commercial sale) is free of copyright protection, regardless of its copyright date. Certainly, the pre-1923 books are long free of copyright restrictions.

The following list is a reasonably complete account of Masonic books, which have been scanned into ‘MS Word’ files. In all, there are approximately 80 titles, composed of approximately 120 volumes. The selection of the titles was made on the basis of the most historically prominent texts of the Craft.

Most of these titles are ‘research’ quality, meaning that they are in raw-text form, containing a small percentage of spelling and formatting errors. They are highly valuable for electronic ‘searching’ and ‘cut-‘n-paste’ citation. With patience, they are reasonably easy to bring up to ‘near-perfect-reproduction’ standard. (Volunteers welcome!)

Such titles as Mackey’s Encyclopedia and his 7-volume history have been taken to a ‘near-perfect-reproduction’ standard. The various Monitors have also been taken to a ‘near-perfect-reproduction’ standard.

          It should be mentioned that along with the ‘text’ of these files, much of the finest historic Masonic art has been restored, not just ‘included.’ The Craft is typified by its artwork being largely ‘pen-and-ink,’ versus color. Much of the art is found in the various ‘Monitors,’ of various titles. It is appropriate to comment that few Masons know the history of the evolution of the modern Monitor, let alone that the history  - with associated personalities - is intriguing.

          Admittedly, there are thousands of Masonic books in print; these electronic files are only a small percentage. Again, many of the hard-bound titles are so aged, that their physical survival is in question. Certainly access to such titles is quite limited, whether a Grand Lodge Library, or a limited Lodge collection of titles. Usually, such volumes are located – and kept - behind locked doors; or in locked book cases. Still, the currently available electronic files represent several lifetimes of Masonic education, and certainly a valuable research platform. Most importantly, they represent “availability.”

          A handful of these titles are to be found on the Internet, however, those are generally in PDF (locked-up) format. The available Internet text-files are usually ‘raw’ scanned-only. There are a few titles which approach “near perfect reproduction;” in text-file format. Those are on the increase, but it takes great persistence at the keyboard to discover them.

          It must be noted that with the increase of Masonic electronic information, traditional research is transforming from time-consuming keyboard labor to “research guidance.” There is a current demand for a book, essentially titled, “The History of the History of Freemasonry.”  Given what is available, where would a new Mason begin his education; how should he proceed? Where would an ‘outsider’ researcher begin and proceed?

          It must also be addressed that the typical mindset quickly goes to the value of these electronic files. Beyond inherent ‘data’ content, the key value is that of time; cash-value is a distant third. Estimating the probable time span, which a committee would require, the value is self-evident - instant results versus _____ .

As to monetary value, a conservative estimate of these files is 24,000 pages. At the ‘Kinkos’ rate of five dollars per page, the ‘scanning’ value starts at $120,000.00! Add a labor estimate for editing, considering that the text scanning takes approximately 12 seconds per page.  Next, consider the cash-value of the restoration and insertion of the artwork. Again, it’s not the monetary value; it’s the instant availability which makes such files truly a treasure.

 Most importantly, where should the Craft proceed, from this point? That trail is yet to be broken!

 

SCANNED VOLUMES

(The “NPR” notation in the list, below, reflects the work

being in the “near-perfect-reproduction” standard.)

 

Gould’s History (6 vols)

Mitchell’s History (2 vols.)

Mackey’s Encyclopedia (3 vols.) [NPR]

Mackey’s “Jurisprudence” [NPR]

Anderson’s “Constitutions – 1723”  [NPR]

Mackey’s “Manual of the Lodge” [NPR]

“The Prestonian Lectures” (1921 – 1987) [5 vols]

Clausen’s “Commentaries on Morals and Dogma”

Kleinknecht’s “Forms and Traditions of the Scottish Rite” [NPR]

“History of the Supreme Council 1801  -  1861”

“History of the Supreme Council 1861  -  1891”

“Illustrated History of freemasonry”

Manly P. Hall “The Secret Teachings of All Ages” [NPR – Color Version]

Coil’s “Freemasonry Through Six Centuries” (2 vols)

Coil’s “Conversations on Freemasonry”

Coil’s “Encyclopedia”

AQC “Genesis of Freemasonry”

Claudy’s “Master’s Handbook”

Carr’s “World of Freemasonry”  [NPR]

“Parade to Glory” (Shrine History)  [NPR]

Hutchens “Bridge to Light” [NPR]

Robinson’s “Born in Blood”

“Little Masonic Library” (6 vols)

“Duncan’s” [NPR]

“Roynan’s” [NPR]

Mackey’s “Principles of Freemasonry”

Lightfoot’s “Manual of the Lodge” [NPR]

Jones’ “Freemason’s Book of the Royal Arch”  [NPR]

Morris’  “Freemasonry in the Holy Land” [Graphic Format + Text Format]

AQC - “Genesis of Freemasonry”

Carr’s - “Freemasons at Work” [NPR]

Jones’ “Freemason’s Guide and Compendium”  [NPR]

Macoy’s “Monitor”

Cartwright’s - “Commentary on Ritual”

Pritchards “Masonry Dissected” [NPR]

Oliver’s “Antiquities of Freemasonry”

Sickles’ “Ahiman Rezon” [Monitor]

Robinson’s “A Pilgrim’s Path”

Hutchinson’s “Spirit of Masonry”

Moore’s “The Craftsman, and Freemason's Guide”

Ihling Bros. & Everard “Masonic Catalog”  [NPR]

De Moulin Bros. “Masonic Catalog” [NPR]

E.R. Johnson’s “Masonry Defined” (Q&A book)

Duncan’s “Ritual” [NPR]

Knight & Lomas’  “The Hiram Key”

Morris’ “Lights and Shadows of Freemasonry”

Mackey’s “Symbolism of Freemasonry”

Michaud’s “History of the Crusades” [2 vols – Rare Books!]

Engle “The Order of the Eastern Star”  [NPR]

Voorhis “Eastern Star”  [NPR]

Baigent & Leigh “Holy Blood, Holy Grail”

Burman’s “Templars – Knights of God”

Burman’sThe Inquisition” 

 “History of Freemasonry and Concordant Orders”

Howarth’s “The Knights Templar”

Robinson’s “Dungeon, Fire & Sword”

Macoy’s “Masonic Dictionary”

Mackey’s History (7 vols.) [NPR]

“Masonic history of the Northwest” [Graphic Format + NPR Text Format]

“History of Freemasonry and Concordant Orders”

Upton’s “Light on a Dark Subject” [Prince Hall recognition treatise]

Pike’s “Morals and Dogma” [NPR]

Baigent & Leigh “The Temple & the Lodge”

Hall’s “Freemasonry of the Ancient Egyptians”

“MONITOR HISTORY”

      Preston’s “Monitor”  [NPR]

      Webb’s “Monitor”  [NPR]

      Cross’s “Monitor”  [NPR]

      Moore’s “Monitor”  [NPR]

      Mackey’s “Monitor”  [NPR]

      Macoy’s “Monitor”  [NPR]

Wright’s “Woman and Freemasonry”  [NPR]

Morris’ “The Poetry of Freemasonry” [NPR Text & Graphic]

Austin’s “The Well Spent Life” (2 Vols – Text & Graphic) [NPR]

Zoercher’s “Our Heroines” [EASTERN STAR]  [NPR]

Macoy’s “Adoptive Rite” [Eastern Star]  [NPR]

Macoy’s “Amaranth Degree” [Early Eastern Star]  [NPR]

Randall’s “A Century and More of the Order of the Amaranth” [NPR]

 

 

         

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