In “The Alchemical Keys To Masonic Ritual”, Bro. Timothy Hogan seeks to provide links between Masonic ritual and symbolism with processes and symbols associated with alchemy.
Bro. Hogans begins his book by stating that the origins of many of our Masonic symbols have been lost and, because of this, our rituals have lost much of their impact due to the fact that we can no longer appreciate their significance (pg 8).
Following the first chapter (which is almost three pages long) the author then gives a brief explanation of the alchemical process so that the readers can have some prerequisite knowledge about the fundamentals of alchemy before moving forward.
“Freemasonry proved to be one of the greatest preservers of the alchemical secrets, symbolism, and practice, so that even today an avid student can recombine the entire process within the ritual.” pg 49
The book then goes through the Masonic ritual (as best as it can without violating any obligations) and begins making connections to alchemical concepts. The author is able to discuss very specific parts of the ritual without going into enough detail so that any secrets are given away. Links are also made between our symbols, passwords, our due guards, the degrees, and the initiatic process itself.
So how is it?
I want to be as transparent as I can right now: I really enjoyed this book but I have some criticisms. Let’s start with the negative so we can end on a positive note.
First of all, this book is short. The main content of the book begins on page 5 and ends on page 51. Not only that but several of the pages are filled with alchemical images which are small and have equally small explanations associated with them. These images are interesting but they don’t always contribute a lot to the book in their current state.
The book is formatted oddly as well. The top margins are about 2 inches from the top of the page to the actual text. It gives the impression that the length of the book was artificially increased by adding a lot of blank space to each page.
Also, a short book means that the explanations tend to be brief and superficial. There were several points the author made and various topics which were glossed over which I would have really appreciated more detail about. The author certainly sounds knowledgeable enough so I found myself wondering several times why he didn’t write more about these things.
The last complaint I have is that, while the author seems well versed in alchemical concepts, he doesn’t cite a lot of his claims. There’s a bibliography at the end and a few citations in the text here and there but a lot of claims are made in this book and it’d be difficult to peer review his ideas without knowing what came from where.
Now, with all of that being said, I want to repeat what I said earlier and state once again that I enjoy this book. I read it more than once, in fact, and I’ll probably read it again some time.
The ideas are interesting and most of the connection the author suggests make sense. You may not always know where the author got the idea but he still gives you a lot to consider and I have a lot of respect for a writer that can make you think and encourage more than a few lodge discussions with his suggestions.
Here’s something I really appreciate as well: the author points out at the beginning of the book that non-members will be mostly oblivious to what is being read and I believe he did a good job in this regard. I’ve read too many Masonic books where the author is eager to throw all of our secrets out in the open. Bro. Hogan is very careful about this and I wish more authors would do the same.
On a scale of 1 – 10, with 10 being the best, I’d give this book a solid 7. Even though it’s a small book and light on content, the little bit that the author provides is very solid and worth a read. In fact, after originally reading this book I felt inclined to pursue my own research on this topic and I couldn’t help but wonder if that wasn’t the intention of the author all along.
It’s my opinion that every serious Masonic scholar should have this book on his bookshelf and I recommend it to anyone that desires an introduction into alchemical influences on Freemasonry.
Buy it on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2NmQ8Pf