or - should we say more on John J. Robinson
The May 1992 The Northern Light, publication of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction Scottish Rite, regularly reviews books with Masonic content, the reviewer being Thomas W. Jackson, 33ø, more familiarly known in Masonic circles as the Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. In this issue he reviews Dungeon, Fire and Sword: The Knights Templar in the Crusades, by John J. Robinson, and he closes with: "It does not involve Freemasonry, although it provides a good preface to Born in Blood. For those with an interest in history, and specifically medieval history, reading it is a must.
He then uses this review as a springboard for further comments on Born in Blood, the reason being explained in his first paragraph. And we quote: The first book I reviewed when assuming the position of book reviewer for The Northern Light was Born in Blood by John J. Robinson. I asked specifically of the editor that I be permitted to submit this as my first review because my opinion was different from that of some of my colleagues who reviewed this volume.
I have reviewed no book since that has generated as much response as has Born in Blood. In my review I questioned some points of accuracy as well as some conclusions, but I found the book to be highly stimulating and recommended it to our members as being worthwhile reading. As a result of the review, I encountered a number of readers who disagreed with this conclusion and recommendation. Since that time, some have commented that I was, to the opposite extreme, a little harsh with my review. Of a far greater concern to me was the immediate negative reaction which the book generated in many Masonic circles, not with its quality or content but because it presents a theory which disagreed with the accepted origin of the craft. I was much dismayed by this almost bitter type of negativism the book generated. There can be little value at any time in attempting to close the door to knowledge, and whether we agree or disagree, accept or reject, the written word is knowledge. I was amazed to learn that there were actually members of our craft who proposed putting Born in Blood on a prohibited reading list. This book was merely offering an alternative theory.
It is my opinion that Mr. Robinson, as the author of Born in Blood, has been one of the greatest forces to hit the Masonic fraternity in at least the past 50 years and perhaps longer. Fortunately for Freemasonry, the impact has been a positive one. Disregarding those of our membership who disagree with the theories promulgated by Mr. Robinson pertaining to our origin, any impact that I have been able to observe has been to our benefit. Since I reviewed the book, I have had the opportunity of speaking with Mr. Robinson on a number of occasions. I have also enjoyed being in his company where I have been able to sit and discuss not only the book but his feelings on Freemasonry in general. I have never failed to experience a stimulating discussion while sharing his thoughts.
Almost all exposure afforded to Freemasonry in recent years, either in print orin the medium of radio or TV, has been negative. I have listened to several audio tapes of his interviews and debates on public radio networks, and every presentation has been positive for the fraternity. Even though the programs have been designed to discuss the book, most calls received by the stations were for information on Freemasonry. The only public voices normally heard are those who object. John Robinson is one of the very few who support. Mr. Robinson has the advantage of being able to debate our detractors as a non Mason and, therefore, add a degree of credibility which we could not achieve as members of the craft. With this credibility and the simple added aclvantage of a good knowledge of the Middle Ages, John Robinson has been significantly more capable of debating John Ankerberg, Epperson and others who have heen our most outspoken critics.
Perhaps the reaction to this publication may be indicative of one of Freemasonry's greater problems today -- our inability to recognize the need of and the ability to accept change in any form. We must recognize the need for stabililty where stability is required. We must recognize, acknowle-lge and protect our basic philosophy and fundamental principles which have made Freemasonry what it is.
We must also, however, be flexible enough to recognize the need to adapt to a changing environment when it is necessary for success and indeed perhaps survival. To look upon a theory and disregard it without consideration or reject knowledge because it fails to fit into the accepted niche which we have created or have had created for us is to perpetuate doom. A new concept of our origin cannot harm us. Our history has been indicative of an inherent strength to combat far greater threats to our integrity than a new concept of our origin. In fact, if this theory were to be proved, it would probably be a benefit to us.
I look upon John Robinson and the impact that he has created both within the fraternity and upon those outside of it to be a bright light of opportunity. I frankly have seen few within the craft with the potential to create as much positive influence as has the author of Born in Blood.
Ed. note: We again respectfully call to your attention that Freemasonry's Quatuor Coronati scholars are not universally in accord with our backgroun John Hamill being quoted as saying something like: "Frankly we don't know where we came from. " But the debate goes on and Christopher Haffner, Past Master of Ouatuor Coronati Lodge, District Grand Master of Hong Kong and the Far East, English Constitution, member of our Lodge, comes up with a good case for the operative background in an article, "What do Free Masons Inherit," in the latest Texas Lodge of Research Transactions (Volume XXVI). Also see Coil's Masonic Encyclopedia, page 500, for more on Templar background.