Sunday, December 28, 2008

Book Review: the Way of the Craftsman by W. Kirk Macnulty

There are a few books that should be in every Freemason's library. Among those are such classic works as WL Wilmshurst's the Meaning of Masonry and the Masonic Initiation, and Albert Pike's Morals and Dogma (for the American SR Mason). Rarely, however, does a contemporary work deserve a place amongst such venerated company. W. Kirk Macnulty's the Way of the Craftsman is one such book.
I first came across this tome about five years ago when attending the annual communication of the Grand Lodge of California. At the time, I was a bit short on cash, so I put it on my wish list. Over the past couple of years, I have been trying to obtain it, but it is hard to come by. In fact, if you try to purchase it on Amazon, it goes for well over fifty dollars. I was finally able to locate it directly though the publisher Central Regalia in London for about $17.50.
This book is well worth the effort of obtaining it. In fact, I would go so far as to say that this is probably the best contemporary work in terms of interpreting the symbols of our Craft. Macnulty applies a unique approach, interpreting Masonic symbols in terms of a God-centered psychology. In this model, everything from the structure of the Temple, to the officers of the Lodge has an important meaning. For example, the seven officers (in English ritual) represent "seven stages of psychological consciousness possible to the incarnate human being." From there, the author goes through the important symbols of each degree, illustrating how our rituals form the basis of a psychological process of self-discovery, which ultimately can lead to the possession of what psychologists refer to as one's "Self". The title refers to the fact that self-discovery is a lifetime labor. To obtain this knowledge, one must embark upon "the way of the Craftsman" and endeavor to apply the principles of the Craft on a daily basis. It is only through diligent labor that the "lost secrets" of a Master Mason can be found. To this end, the author includes a chapter outlining suggestions for embarking upon the Work.
I would recommend this book to any Master Mason desiring to have a deeper knowledge of the symbolism of our Craft, and thus by extension, himself. Relatively short but concise at only 150 pages, this book contains a wealth of valuable information that will give the contemplative Mason much upon which to meditate. By applying the approach advocated by Macnulty, one's Masonic journey can be greatly enriched, and even seemingly insignificant parts of the ritual can serve as guideposts towards greater Masonic enlightenment.