Dan Brown's 2009 novel, The Lost Symbol, is generating a lot of speculation within the Masonic fraternity regarding its impact on the future of our Craft. The optimists among us believe the story of The Lost Symbol will be the impetus of a resurgence in interest in Freemasonry unlike anything most of us have ever seen. Christopher Hodapp, bestselling author of Freemasons for Dummies and several other books on Freemasonry, has said that "We are looking at a wave of new candidates that will threaten to overwhelm us." I tend to agree. And, while some would say this is a good problem to have it is nonetheless a problem. My concern is that we, as a fraternity, are ill-prepared to provide these new seekers of Light with that for which they come.
As we have seen in increasing numbers in recent years, and will soon see in the coming deluge, these Masonic Youths are not to be satisfied with mundane business meetings, endless fundraisers, and learning ritual for ritual's sake. They want- no they seek- enlightenment. They desire an understanding of the knowledge of the mystic art. They have seen the movies; they have read the books, including The Lost Symbol, and when they come to our door they have high expectations. In some recent cases potential candidates were better educated in Masonry when they knocked on our door than many of us who have joined over the past several decades. This is no one's fault. We thought we were doing it right. But, if we have any hope of retaining the interest of these new members we have got to play catch-up on our own Masonic education.
Fortunately, we do not all have to become Masonic scholars like Robert Langdon in The Lost Symbol. Of the many beautiful things about Freemasonry one of the most beautiful is that it has very few hard and fast rules: be a good person; be a good citizen; believe in God. Keep these three things in focus and pretty much everything else is fluid. If you love Masonry for the fun, fellowship and camaraderie, that's great. Lots of people do. But, if a young Mason comes to you and asks your take on the symbology of the 47th Problem of Euclid don't try to dazzle him or baffle him or in any other manner, blow smoke. If you don't have a reasoned explanation for him, tell him so. And then tell him that you'll help him find someone who will, and do it.
However, if you came to Freemasonry out of a sincere thirst for knowledge and somehow lost sight of that goal, now is the time to rededicate yourself to learning. There are many excellent sources of Masonic education available to us, both online and off. Unfortunately, there are many misguided, misleading, and misinformed sources, as well. For those of us who have been in the fraternity for some time we can recognize the difference pretty quickly, but for the uninitiated it can be quite confusing.
For reliable free information look first to the website of the Grand Lodge in your State, Province or Country. Wikipedia has the most exhaustive, albeit general, list of Grand Lodges that I have found. Be advised, though, that the Grand Lodges on this list are not all "Regular" Lodges. Regular Lodges are those that operate within the same organization. They recognize each other and the jurisdiction of each. For information on Regular Lodges the Grand Lodge in your locale is the best source. See our Masonic Links page for links to Grand Lodges, as well as Masonic Research sites and Masonic Organizations.
There are many excellent web sites for exoteric as well as esoteric information on the Craft. A list of them all would be impossible, but a few of my favorites are:
There are also a great many excellent books on the topic that range from a general grasp of the philosophy to in depth studies of the Craft. Again, a comprehensive list would be impossible but here are a few that I highly recommend:
And, of course, for a thoroughly enjoyable read that you will be hard pressed to put down once you pick it up don't miss Dan Brown's, 'The Lost Symbol.'
While The Lost Symbol may not be entirely factual in regards to Freemasonry, it is an excellent tale.