Friday, May 22, 2015

Book Review: What You Need to Know About Masons

A Fair Trade Book

Title: What You Need to Know About Masons
Author: Ed Decker

Author's blog:
Date: 1992
Publisher: Harvest House
ISBN: 0-89081-945-9
Length: 218 pages
Quote: “I discovered from an angry church deacon that the ritual of the Masonic Lodge was the actual foundation of the LDS Temple ritual.”
In order to research the aspects of the Masonic rituals he wants to share with us, Ed Decker had to promise not to identify his sources or share any real names or stories. So he presents his charges against Masonic Lodge groups in the form of a fictional composite story. The effect is, of course, not just to explain why Decker thinks certain aspects of the “secret rituals” are antichristian or at least doctrinally incorrect, but also to spin a short novel about how any group relationship can go wrong.
While some initiates into Masonic Lodges take the “culturally inclusive” references to Pagan deities very seriously, the fact is that any small group, including a corporate department, student social club, or even a church committee can develop the same kind of emotional toxicity Decker’s fictional Masonic Lodge has begun to cultivate. It’s not caused by invoking the wrong spirits or failing to invoke the right ones so much as it’s caused by individuals’ desire to be leaders or key members of the group at any cost. Whenever a group of human beings develops a formal structure, “rituals,” hierarchy, and long-term group identity, it develops the potential to become a harmful personality cult.
In Decker’s mini-novel, a young pastor who objects to the Pagan-inclusive language in a Masonic ritual immediately locks horns with the lodge leader, who is also his father-in-law. Lodge “brothers” demand the removal of the pastor from his job. Other residents of the small town take sides. Violence flares, and an “over­insured” building burns down.
Could a Masonic leader be as bad as that? One could easily be worse. Decker’s villain is a cantankerous old man, not an evil cult leader; encouraging someone to overinsure a warehouse, then burning it down, is as low as he’d go. When similar group dynamics have existed during labor union negotiations or small-town political campaigns, the violence has gone further than that. And the other Masons of fictional Badger Lake are never suspected of practicing sodomy, patronizing prostitutes, or buying elections, as real-world men’s clubs have done.
Even if reading this book makes you suspect that your friendly local Shriners are carrying on like the Masons of Badger Lake, it won’t make you hate or fear the Shriners. It will make you pray for their souls. No harm is likely to be done by praying for people’s souls, and thus no harm is likely to be done by this book. If you are a Shriner and have any reason to consider a higher level of Freemasonry, you're undoubtedly qualified to take this warning for what it's worth.
I live in one of those small towns where most of the men who reach a certain combination of age and social status become Shriners. They raise money for children’s hospital expenses by acting silly on public occasions. I’m not sure that it’s really necessary for anyone’s grandfather to ride a tricycle down the main street of town to remind people that the rightful owner of the tricycle may be in the hospital, but it seems to amuse the older men, and they do help families through bad times.
Decker asserts, however, that although the lower degrees of Masonic ritualism simply dedicate lodges to “God,” more advanced rituals identify this “God” with  Baal, Osiris, and other unsavory characters from ancient mythology. What he quotes as probably-authentic texts seem to affirm that all names for the Supreme Being mean the same thing. The rituals seem to have less in common with the initiations into real Pagan cults described by people like Zora Neale Hurston than with riding a tricycle, but Decker makes it clear that, for some Christian lodge men, these words still make it seem that the “meat” of club membership has been “offered to idols.” Someone who’s been comfortable with ordinary lodge activities might still feel that progress to a higher level of Freemasonry is not as purely righteous as progress to a higher rank in Boy Scouts.
Who needs to read this book? Probably men who have joined a lodge, marched or cavorted in a parade, solicited donations outside a store, etc., and then been invited to consider a higher degree of Freemasonry. (Why did somebody give this book to me? Er, was around the time a local Shriner bought a lot of furniture from my booth at a local flea market. I don't know that I really needed to know much about Masons, not being male, but What You Need to Know About Masons was interesting to me anyway, because it supports everything plausible that I've read about cults...and I've researched several.)

On the assumption that Ed Decker is still living, although his last blog post is eight months old, I'm offering What You Need to Know About Masons as a Fair Trade Book. As regular readers know, this means that when you send $5 per book + $5 per package for shipping to salolianigodagewi @ yahoo, we send $1 per book to Decker or a charity of his choice. If somebody out there wanted to share this book with a Shrine or Lodge group, we could probably fit six copies into each package, for a total cost to the purchaser of $35 and a total benefit to Decker or his charity of $6.