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Frederic Renard (Brussels, Belgium)
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A Miscellany of Masonic Essays: (1995-2012) (The Masonic Essays of Robert Lomas)
A Miscellany of Masonic Essays: (1995-2012) (The Masonic Essays of Robert Lomas)
by Robert Lomas
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars interesting collection of short essays, making it a good bedside table book, but horrendous proofreading, 7 Mar 2013
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We are familiar with Robert Lomas' very readable style, and the fine blend of free-thinking and spirituality of his scientific mind. All these qualities are amply confirmed in this book.
Some essays deal with the author's conception of Masonry in general, while others focus on specific aspects of the rituals, such as the rough and perfect ashlars or the checkered floor.
Since each essay was written independently, and collecting them in one volume was actually an afterthought, there are bound to be some repetitions, but this is made up for by the variety of angles of approach. Each essay is short enough to be read in 30 minutes or so, making this bundle into a very convenient bedside table book.
Many good things and nothing seriously wrong, except that the proofreading was obviously, to put it very mildly, very poor, resulting in, at the very least, one typographical error on each page on an average.
Frédéric Renard, Brussels, Belgium
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 26, 2013 3:15 PM GMT


The Second Messiah: Templars,The Turin Shroud and the Great Secret of Freemasonry
The Second Messiah: Templars,The Turin Shroud and the Great Secret of Freemasonry
by Christopher Knight
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.03

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Elements of historic speculation tend to be presented as proved facts, 3 Dec 2012
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Robert Lomas is not the first writer to point to the fact that most immediate followers of Jesus honoured him not as a god but as a prophet of a revitalised, purified jewish faith. That Jesus was in fact a sort of Jewish fundamentalist (in the positive sense: going back to the essential values of the Jewish faith). That the dogma of the divine nature of Jesus was devised by people who had not known him, and that it ultimately triomphed only when the Roman emperor thought that it was in his interest that it should so. That, even if you set aside the gospels that were discarded, for mainly political reasons, by the council of Nicea such as it was manipulated by Emperor Constantine, and if one only reads the 4 'official' gospels, it cannot be asserted that Jesus ever claimed to be God. That the Turin shroud cannot be Jesus' picture, since it was only woven in the late middle ages. Robert Lomas is not the first one to put this case, but he does so in a coherent and convincing way. So far so good.
Speculation begins when the writer asserts that the shroud MUST be a picture of the last Grand Master of the Templars because of the carbon datation of the shroud, the body posture and damage that has been inflicted on this body as a result of torture, and finally the links between the Templars and the aristocratic families in whose keeping the shroud was for many years. Robert Lomas concludes that Jacques de Molay perfectly passes the test of "whose picture is that".
Robert Lomas fails to see that this is a mere possibility, while there may be many others. The 14th century was not characterised by exceptional religious tolerance and openness, and, at and around the time of jacques de Molay's torture and execution, there must have been many people who were subjected to a very similar treatment.
Whose picture is it? We shall probably never know, and Free Masonry will probably never pierce that mystery.
Still it is rather pleasant reading.


The Heart of Compassion: The Thirty-Seven Verses on the Practice of a Bodhisattva: A Commentary on the Thirty-Seven-Fold Practice of a Bodhisattva
The Heart of Compassion: The Thirty-Seven Verses on the Practice of a Bodhisattva: A Commentary on the Thirty-Seven-Fold Practice of a Bodhisattva
by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
Edition: Paperback
Price: 10.97

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a useful companion to a great classical Buddhist philosophical poem, 11 Aug 2012
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"The 37 practices of the Bodhisattvas" is a (very) compact poetic outline of the "Mahayana" ("great vehicle") Buddhist spiritual quest. Like the "Hinayana" ("small vehicle") the Mahayana is about the liberation of the practitioner from the conditionings of ordinary life, but the Mahayana explicitly sees this effort as a means to an end, the end being to achieve ability to help all sentient (human and other) beings to reach liberation. The Mahayana practitioner, or Bodhisattva, will not consider him/herself relieved of his/her obligation to accomplish efforts to work for the good of all beings as long (how many lives this may take is of no importance) as not all of them have achieved liberation from the shackles of conditioned existence.
The "37 practices", composed by a Tibetan Grand Master in the 14th century A.D., is very compact (37 four line stanzas, in addition to a few introductory and concluding ones). The general reader will often have the impression that the Master starts a stanza by stating some premises, and then proceeds to a conclusion without providing much more than rather elusive hints at the intellectual path between the two (which probably did not matter much for him, since, in Buddhism and especially Tibetan Buddhism, "understanding" is more a matter of experiencing reality than of reasoning your way to it). He takes a lot for granted and assumes that his reader understands what he has in mind, which his Tibetan readers at the time probably did, sharing a cultural background that is largely unfamiliar to us. This even translates into syntactic and morphological short-circuits: sentences without a verb, or missing the equivalent of conjunctions and prepositions supposed to indicate relationships between words and phrases... even words denoting two opposite or complementary concepts contracted into one word (say, to give an idea of what might be an equivalent in English: "negsuff" for "negativity and suffering"). Although the trained reader is expected to fill-in all gaps and elucidate all abstruse formulations, well, most of us are not trained readers by the Master's standards.
The "37 practices" are often used as a textbook for beginning students of classical Tibetan (including your reviewer), and you will hardly be surprised to hear that we find it very hard to understand, let alone translate it. Those who do not know any Tibetan at all may settle directly for a translation, and then, since not everything in any translation of such a rich and compact text is ever likely to be perfectly clear, another translation, only to be left wandering whether a few stanzas are really translations of the same text.
Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, who has a long experience of teaching Buddhism to Westerners, takes the reader through this text, stanza after stanza, providing not only explanations, but also telling examples and illustrations. Going beyond the text, he gives clear and synthetic definitions, again with examples and illustrations, of basic general Buddhist and specific Mahayana notions: Karma, Bodhisattvas, refuge, the three jewels and the three roots, and many more, to which the poem often refers in an elliptic way (always assuming that, of course, the reader knows all about that).
Dilgo Khyentse's fluent style, often enlivened by a touch of humour, gives a glimpse of a wise and warm-hearted Master, a hallmark of Tibetan Buddhism. "The Heart of Compassion" is a valuable companion to a most fundamental text of Tibetan Buddhism.
Frédéric Renard
Brussels, Belgium


A Tibetan-English Dictionary: With Sanskrit Synonyms
A Tibetan-English Dictionary: With Sanskrit Synonyms
by Sarat Chandra Das
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 9.93

3.0 out of 5 stars Not very user-friendly, 22 Mar 2012
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I used the "pocket bible size" version of this dictionary a few times and found it difficult to use because the fonts are so small (and the typeface not very crisp), making it hard to read (especially composite letters with superscripts ans subscripts). So I bought this A-4 size version in the hope that the font size would make it easier to consult.

I was disappointed: they just print four pages of the "pocket bible size" version on just one page of this A-4 version. The font is as small as ever, and the typeface a little bit crisper, but not not much.

This is, to the best of my knowledge, the ONLY Tibetan language dictionary listing both modern and classical (Dharmic) words and phrases. So students of Tibetan cannot do without it. But not only is it not very easy to read, but it also often lists a lot of different renditions for one word, without any serious attempt to explain when one meaning applies rather than another one.

This is probably the ill-fate of Tibetan that not enough people want to learn it, so that there is no real market to recoup the cost of producing good, modern textbooks, grammars and dictionary.

On the whole, a necessary, but disappointing book.


The Lost Key: The Supranatural Secrets of the Freemasons
The Lost Key: The Supranatural Secrets of the Freemasons
by Robert Lomas
Edition: Hardcover

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars sets the record straight on the true nature of "regular" Freemasonry, 10 Jan 2012
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The Lost Key: The Supranatural Secrets of the Freemasons (Robert Lomas)

This book will be fascinating reading experience for those whose opinion of Freemasonry is mainly based on their knowledge of continental European ("irregular") Masonry. Although "irregular" Masonry claims to be open to all religious and philosophical persuasions, and indeed many of its members are quite open, it is, however, predominantly, and often aggressively and dogmatically, agnostic or atheistic. There is a widespread misconception, in "irregular" Masonry, that "Regular" Masonry is Christian at heart. While this was true in the early 18th century when the first English Grand Lodge was established, when Christianity of some sort was more or less taken for granted in Western societies, nothing can now be further from the truth.

Robert Lomas' book thoroughly debunks this misconception, taking himself as an example. His view of the Great Architect is that of an underlying, all-pervading, ultimate intelligence that manifests itself in the laws of nature or physics. On a more concrete or individual plane, It can manifest itself as a Creator God such as the one worshiped by the Jews, the Christians or the Muslims - this is perfectly acceptable and respectable, but it need not be so. A Mason can see the Great Architect more as an intelligent principle (or a principle of intelligence, order, cohesion...) than as a "divine person".

Robert Lomas sees Freemasonry as a spiritual quest whose purpose is to identify with this divine intelligence. He calls this ultimate initiation "the cosmic experience" or "the God Experience". Outside the Lodge, every brother attempts to progress toward this ultimate initiation through the vehicle of his particular religion or spiritual philosophy. In the Lodge, Masonic work is about reaching for the common core of all spiritual quests, without any intent to vindicate (proselyte) one's personal quest, let alone to convert others to it. Masonry is seen as an attempt to crystallise the quintessence of all spiritual quests while respecting each of them: share what all spiritual quests have in common and reach the core of spirituality itself.

I found "the Hiram Key", of great help while I was going through a serious personal Masonic crisis when I left "irregular" Masonry because I was appalled by its propensity, in fact though not in principle, and certainly in the Lodge I had joined, to impose atheism as the only true religion. Now I have again joined ("regular") Masonry. When my application was screened I clearly stated that I respect Christianity but am no Christian myself, that I have another conception of the Divine than that of a creator God - "irregular" Masons please take heed: I was accepted. This new book builds upon the author's view of the Great Architect that was already outlined in "the Hiram Key", while exploring more systematically the interplay between scientific and spiritual quests, and how this can be experienced in Masonry. My only caveat: Robert Lomas is obviously, and writes as, a highly proficient scientist, so that the non scientific expert reader will sometimes find it difficult to follow him.

Final touch: I was quite impressed by Robert Lomas' warm appreciation of the atmosphere of spiritual focus in female Lodges he visited, contrary to many brothers of male-only Lodges, who often give the impression to emphasise the "social club" aspect of Masonry. Since Robert himself belongs to the United Grand Lodge of England, which does not recognise female or mixed Grand Lodges, this shows how healthily critical he can stay of his own brotherhood. A genuine free thinker with a deep sense of spirituality.

Frédéric RENARD, Belgium
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 6, 2012 7:58 PM BST


Turning the Hiram Key
Turning the Hiram Key
by Robert Lomas
Edition: Paperback

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Illuminating insights in the nature of initiation raise questions on the future of Freemasonry, 10 Feb 2009
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This review is from: Turning the Hiram Key (Paperback)
Turning the Hiram KeyRobert Lomas provides fascinating insights, largely based on scientific observation, in the nature of ritual and how it functions and how we as human beings respond to it. The scientific reasoning is often difficult to follow and is not always presented without jargon and scientific terms that are not consistently clearly explained in a way that would make them accessible to non specialists, but the general reader will understand enough to get the author's main point.

Robert Lomas also outlines his concept of initiation, seen as the way toward the "God Experience" or "Cosmic Consciousness", seen first of all as a process of identification, becoming one with, a principle of order and reason that has to be found in the Universe and in oneself as a component of the Universe. Not all those who share this view think this principle is linked with a "God" or "Supreme Being" that exists above, therefore outside the Universe, that created and controls it. When Robert Lomas was initiated in a Lodge of the United Grand Lodge of England, he had to say that he believes in God, but, reading his book, one may wonder whether he really does so, at least in the sense most religions associate with the word "God".

This raises the issue of relations between "regular" Masonry such as represented by the United Grand Lodge of England, which prescribes "belief in God" and mainly continental European brands of Masonry, which do not, although they assert that they have nothing against religion, and that their members are free to believe in God and practise any religion. Robert Lomas implicitly addresses this issue, and one may regret that he does not do so more explicitly.

Reading Robert Lomas' book, one wishes something could be done to help heal the rift between "regular" and "non regular" Masonry. After all, many agnostic "irregular" Masons share with "regular" ones a desire to search for the "divine" within the Universe, although many agnostic Masons would be reluctant to use the word "divine" because it refers to the traditional meaning of "God" in most religions. But isn't the difference mainly about using some words rather than others, and not necessarily about the core values of Masonry? It is not really necessary to "recognise" each other. After all, no Masonic body, including the UGLE, has the right to behave as a sort of Vatican that is authorised to "excommunicate" other Masons. Without extending formal "recognition" to each other (I frankly do not think many "irregular" Masons are so keen on being "recognised" by the UGLE), there is no reason why Masonic bodies that otherwise share substantial core values should deprive each other and themselves of opportunities for dialogue fruitful spiritual exchanges. It is ridiculous, and actually inconsistent with the ideals of Masonry, for the UGLE to forbid, as it still does in principle, any contacts with "irregular" but well established and honourable bodies such as Grand Orient and many others.


Solomon's Power Brokers: The Secrets of Freemasonry, the Church and the IIlluminati
Solomon's Power Brokers: The Secrets of Freemasonry, the Church and the IIlluminati
by Christopher Knight & Alan Butler
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 14.66


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