Are Freemasons a secret society, with dangerous agenda, as their enemies would like to present, or a philanthropic association of good men (and women) trying to become better and improve the society they live in? Can we subscribe to the controversial idea that the phenomenon of Freemasonry has a life of its own within our collective unconscious that sustains itself regardless of human destiny? Enter into this mysterious world of symbols, bizarre rituals, secret words, signs, and handshakes and learn first hand what it is all about, where it is coming from and where it is going.
On the Square: Decoding Freemasonry came out of the fusion of two of my previous books – Royal Art: Three Centuries of Freemasonry and Peace of the Rose: The Meaning of Freemasonry. Both of these books had much success with readers, were translated into Serbian, and had over the years two editions in English and two in Serbian.
An excerpt from the book:
INSTEAD OF A CONCLUSION
How to conclude a story that does not have an end? After centuries of Masonic scholarship, the feeling that the last Chapter is yet to be written is as present as ever. We are still “in search of that which is lost”. In the old Greek story, Aesop told his sons, before his death, that he had buried a great treasure in his vineyard. They did not find gold, but because they dug and stirred the ground around the roots of their vines, they had a rich vintage the following year. The story of Freemasonry is somewhat parallel to Aesop’s Fable. Thousands of books were written and numerous lectures were given, all in hope of finding that which has been lost. It is yet to be found, but because of the search for it, much knowledge in all branches of learning has been uncovered and accumulated.
Some Freemasons believe that our Royal Art appeared with the birth of the first man and that it will be around until the end of humankind. To be born a human being means having an inalienable right to be “Human”- to act and to be treated as such. To practice Masonry means to strive constantly towards the highest ideals of humanity. Freemasons often disagree among themselves what the end result of their quest “for that which is lost” represents. For some, it is the return from the fall to the original Divine state of the First Man. For others, it is the achievement of inner perfection and happiness and improvement in all fields of human existence. Whatever it is, the quest is still one and the same: to enlighten our hearts and minds, search for absolute truth, believe in the inherited goodness of man, and maintain human dignity, practice virtues, and always, always endeavor to be in harmony with the whole of Creation.
It is not an easy task. It requires wisdom and strength of the Master Builders of ancient pyramids and Gothic cathedrals. It requires love for harmony and beauty. It requires measuring and weighing our thoughts and actions and being on the square with others and ourselves. It requires the use of the best stone. The hardest stone to cut and carve is one within us. It is heavy with passions and prejudice, it is rough with bad habits, and it is brittle with fears and confusion and often is invisible. Most people go through life without ever realizing their ability and right to create and improve. Nevertheless, those who dare to take the mallet and the chisel and strike that stone are rewarded with the nourishment of learning, refreshment of achieving, and joy of discovery. To make a perfect stone is the ultimate ideal of all the Master Builders. The responsibility is serious and the consequences far-reaching. Stones cut centuries ago by Great Initiates like Socrates, Plato, Moses, Pythagoras, Jesus, Confucius, and Mohamed are still standing as the foundation stones of edifices they started. Each individual’s life starts with a new rough stone waiting to be discovered by a willing Apprentice. Every Apprentice has a chance to be better than his Master, and every Master is obligated to contribute his part to that edifice called Humanity.
The sounds of each Builder’s working tools are like a Symphony of Creation that brings us closer to the Great Architect of the Universe. This Divinely inspired music lifts our bodies, expands our souls, touches our spirits, and…
A thorough and interesting overview of a unique world,
February 22, 2014, 5.0 out of 5 stars
By Jacqueline Boss
I began reading this book with next to no knowledge of Freemasonry and little interest in learning more. But along the way, I found that I became genuinely interested in the subject and the beginning chapters of the book led me to ask many questions that propelled me through the rest of the book.
The beginning chapters had me a little angry, since I am both a woman and an atheist, and it seemed that Freemasonry was starkly against both of these types of people. I wondered why I should care about a group of elitist men who would deem me unworthy of their special club. Later chapters revealed that today, women are becoming more and more involved in Freemasonry (and the author happily supports this), and there are non-religious branches of Freemasonry that now accept atheists, though on that point I remain a little confused as to how an atheist could put aside the huge mountains of religious mumbo jumbo and superstition and symbolism that seem to be such an integral part of Freemasonry, and I do think the author is misinformed as to what atheists actually think (based on one passage where he explains how they view proof of god), or perhaps he hasn’t spoken with many. That particular section was a bit tedious and frustrating to read, but beyond that, I had no issues with the book.
I would recommend this book more as a thorough introduction for someone who is truly interested in the topic than as a source for something like a research paper. Not because it lacks information (on the contrary, it is packed full of information on everything from history to symbolism to practical use of Freemasonry), but because any single piece of information would be very hard to find among the dense passages, with little to no sub-heading breakdowns.
Other reviewers have pointed out a few grammatical mistakes, and although I noticed them, I found that they had next to no bearing on the actual information and I never had trouble understanding what the author was trying to say. He is incredibly well researched and passionate about Freemasonry, and I was very happy to have this book be my first glimpse into a strange new world.
Finally, I would just like to comment that although my view of this book is very high, my view of Freemasonry isn’t necessarily- so the two don’t have to go hand in hand. Based on what the author says, it seems that Freemasons have a few wonderful goals: to improve themselves and better their communities (I wish everyone on the planet could set goals as noble as those), but also some very nonsensical and irrational goals, that seemed to me like a colossal waste of time, namely learning all of the symbolism and performing intricate rituals. Nonetheless, this was a very interesting read and I am happy to have learned what I did.
THE Reference Manual for all things on Freemasonry,
November 13, 2013, 4.0 out of 5 stars
By K. A. Krisko (Colorado, USA)
4.5 stars. This is an incredibly detailed and thorough treatment of the history, philosophy, and specifics of Freemasonry, including Freemasonry around the world, the evolution of symbols and rituals, garments, the use of books, buildings, and everything you never knew you needed to know about the Freemasons. If you are looking for more information about them or need a reference book to keep on your shelf for writing purposes, this is the book for you. Well-organized, clear, and not dumbed-down, with scads of illustrations and photographs. I haven’t read much else about the Freemasons, so I don’t have a lot with which to compare this book, but my guess is that this is one of the most thorough, modern coverages of Freemasonry available today.
The only issue I have is the oddly inconsistent use of definite and indefinite articles (‘the’, ‘an’, ‘a’). In some areas, articles are missing completely, giving the text the feel of an outline or screenplay. In other areas, articles are used correctly. In still other areas, they are used incorrectly, for example, substituting ‘the’ for ‘an’. This is frequent enough to be distracting when coupled with awkward wording in some sections (“So then, how one could come up with the correct definition of Freemasonry or explain meaning…” “Once the man was able of rational thinking…” “Why did Hiram Abif had to die – is our primary question?”). Mr. Nikolic has a prodigious vocabulary which is almost invariably used correctly; nevertheless, the book would benefit from a sentence-by-sentence review by someone with an eye for correcting article use (or lack of use).
The issue cited above should not be taken as serious enough to dissuade readers, though; the information is all here, and I’d give it another half-star if I could. Recommended for those with an interest in history, Freemasonry, ritual, religion, and philosophy.
An authoritative read on Freemasonry,
November 10, 2013, 3.0 out of 5 stars
By Samuel R. Choy
On the Square, by Stevan V. Nikolic, provides an extensive and interesting introduction to Freemasonry. I’ll admit that when I started the book, I knew nothing about Freemasonry. The rumors I have heard about it run the gamut from innuendo that it was a secret cult intent on taking over the world to assertions that it is nothing but a social club. Thus, it was interesting to read about it from the point of view of someone who seems to have been involved in it for a very long time. Given that, I read the book with the assumption that Nikolic has extensive knowledge of the subject. Overall, I was impressed by the material in the book. The history, traditions, and structure of Freemasonry is much more complex and rich than I realized. Furthermore, I appreciate Mr. Nikolic’s discussions of the problems he perceives Freemasonry has rather than attempting to present it as a perfect institution.
The Book Contents
The first five chapters of the book present the reader with an introduction to Freemasonry. Chapters six through nine are a history of Freemasonry. And then chapters 10 through 19 give more information about Masonic traditions, discuss its secrets (without actually giving away its secrets), and discuss how Freemasonry relates to society. In these final chapters, he also discusses some problems he sees within American Freemasonry and how it can be improved. He ends the book with an extensive appendix.
On the Outside Looking In
As I read the book, I had the distinct feeling of being an uninvited outsider looking in. The book seems to be written for Masons who wanted to learn more about Freemasonry, not for non-Masons who are simply interested in the subject. Furthermore, despite his claims of the universality of Freemasonry, Nikolic seems somewhat hostile to people who may have a religious issue with Freemasonry. Perhaps I am reading too much in to this. However he writes:
The notion that all men are equal regardless of their religious beliefs or non-beliefs, does not comply with most of the religious dogmas of different religions.
It does not seem to occur to Nikolic that someone might have a strong religious belief, strongly disagree with someone who disagrees with him, and yet still consider the other person as an equal or even a friend. Personally, I am not convinced that could become a Freemason without violating my own religious beliefs. Perhaps I am wrong in this. However, that does not mean that I am anti-masonic. From what I read in Nikolic’s book, I believe that Masons do many good things around the world. For many people, it is probably a very positive, enlightening organization. And yet, for religious reasons, I do not believe that it is for me. Does that make me a religious bigot? My impression is that Mr. Nikolic might say yes. However, I sincerely hope that I am wrong about this.
A Detailed History,
October 24, 2013, 3.0 out of 5 stars
By R. Hazell (Duncan, BC, Canada)
If the rating system were more sophisticated, I’d give this book 3.5 stars. The author, a Freemason himself, seeks to weave many threads of Freemasonry into one book. On the Square examines the history, philosophy, benevolent aspirations, and symbolic aspects of Freemasonry and follows its progress from recorded beginnings to its spread worldwide. The author strongly believes that its spiritual studies form the core of this fraternal organization. His passion for the subject periodically bursts the bonds of the scholarly style he mostly uses, and when it does, you can’t help but be moved. The book also examines legends like ties to the medieval masons’ guilds. And it details how some established religions and certain governments regard Freemasonry as heretical or seditious.
I liked the many illustrations in the book, which broke up the long, detailed passages about when certain lodges were founded and what their guidelines were. Freemasons, like all humans, kept falling out with each other, forming new lodges, hierarchies, rules of conduct, etc., something the author clearly deplores. It was hard to follow every twist and turn, but for anyone who wants to learn about Freemasonry without consulting lots of books could certainly turn to this one, which sums everything up in its appendix.
I began to flag in reading it, though, as the history was not that compelling to me. I kept reading because I began to really like the author. His passion for and dedication to his subject and his ideals kept me going; and his desire to be unbiased is truly laudable.
An Enlightening Read,
October 23, 2013, 5.0 out of 5 stars
By Susanne Leist, (Woodmere, NY)
This book is a philosophical treatise on Freemasonry. The history, the rituals, and the reasoning behind the Freemasons are explained in depth. From this synopsis, the book might sound long and boring. But it is far from boring. It is well written and the author’s smooth style held my interest.
I took pages of notes for this review. I learned that the Freemasons are free thinkers. They believe that by using reason and common sense, one could acquire absolute knowledge of the universe. With this ultimate knowledge, one could live a day to day life of truth and compassion.
Freemasons use many signs and passwords. It gives them an aura of secrecy, which I personally love to read about. However, they had to practice in secret to avoid the censure of the religion or government at the time. To this day, Freemasonry is still practiced. One day when I was discussing this book with a friend, she mentioned that her grandfather had been a Freemason. I was able to provide her with a few new insights.
With my background in Judaic studies, I was fascinated to read that the three chambers of the Freemasons were historically based upon Solomon’s Temple. The Old Testament describes in minute detail how the Temple was built. The Freemasons use tools and symbols to show how all beliefs must be based on a strong structure to endure time. I finally understand why a major part of the Old Testament is devoted to the construction and tools for the Temple.
If you want to learn about the Freemasons, then I highly recommend it. I also recommend it for someone who likes to learn new things daily.
Man has been striving for knowledge about our existence, creation, and god. The Freemasons have pursued this very seriously. They practice in secret and apart from society. Now that my interest is peaked, I would like to visit one of their temples.
An Authoritative Read,
October 21, 2013, 4.0 out of 5 stars
It’s a book written by a Freemason on Freemasonry (who really loves it) and wants it to flourish once more. The book is thorough, almost encyclopedic at 400 pages.
It starts out with what Freemasonry really is and then goes on to state how it all began, basically by masons (or builders) who wanted to congregate and discuss and experience the more philosophical and spiritual aspects of life in a secure setting where they would not be disturbed or harassed.
The historical aspects are interesting with the church almost destroying them in the 17th century. As usual, the English and the French had a fight over how to run things and Freemasonry got split into two major camps. The third major camp belongs to the United States.
The symbols and secrets used in Freemasonry are discussed and although it is largely a fraternal organization women are also accepted, with the French being the first to accept women as Freemasons. Freemasons are free to practice any religion although this book fully tilts towards the Bible which is the religion the author follows.
In a nutshell, according to the author, this is what Freemasonry is all about: “Only if one learns to look at the symbolic nature of everything, does one have a chance to comprehend the full meaning of our constantly changing reality on many different levels and in doing so enlightens oneself and learns the ultimate truth.”
The book ends by questioning who should and shouldn’t be allowed to become a Freemason and a decline in the number of people who want to join it. The editing is not up to the mark and an effort can be made to shorten the book so that it is palatable to the current generation. For that, I give it 4 stars.
I loved it, I didn’t want to read it!,
September 27, 2013, 5.0 out of 5 stars
By Walter Danley. (Boerne, Texas)
I was eager to read Stevan’s book. Several of my uncles were Masons and never talked answered my many questions about their society membership. The organization was a secret, so my motivation to learn something about the Freemasons was intriguing.
On the Square is not a novel. It is a credible academic dissertation, worth of a Ph. D. candidate, reflecting considerable research efforts. This text will answer any question that anyone has ever had regarding the society of Freemasons, and it will document that answer professionally. Some of the artwork is credited to his wife, Tamara, an accomplished artist in her own right.
The first fifteen percent of the work’s focus is on the religious or non-religious nature of Freemasonry. Historic ambivalence abounds with time, money, and geology as to its function on the order. Nikolic goes on to discuss, dissect, explain, and argue the merits of Freemasonry’s symbols, rituals, history and alternative theories’ of the same, and the attacks made against it over the centuries.
Let me say that I did not enjoy reading the book. Why? Because my initial interest was satisfied early on in the reading and after satisfaction made me feel like I was back in post-grad studying for Friday’s term paper. A scholarly work with research exhibited throughout the text, Nikolic has done an outstanding job of documentation. This is a well written academic effort. It has been interior designed and is pleasing to the eye. The artwork of Tamara pleases the aesthetic senses. So what audience did Stevan write this book for? Who is the intended reader? Is there a class in Freemasonry at some college that needs a textbook? Who buys this quality work?
The answers to those questions are the province of the author. The responsibility of a review is to opine on what the author said and how he did in the saying. For these, Nikolic deserves 5 stars. I would heartily recommend this text, but I have no idea to whom.
September 23, 2013, 4.0 out of 5 stars
A very useful book about freemasonry if one indeed is interested in the subject. However, if one has a specific question, then they would better be served looking it up on the net somewhere. This book gives a history of freemasonry, poses countless questions, and offers many viewpoints on the opinions of what it stands for. Insightful and objective, which is good when wanting to understand a topic.
A little dense, but a very interesting read,
September 9, 2013, 4.0 out of 5 stars
By Nicolas Wilson (Vancouver, WA United States)
Exceedingly well researched, offering analysis and history for multiple points of view within the Freemason community. It was a little dense, and I think I would have enjoyed it more if I’d been looking for something specific, rather than reading from beginning to end. If you are interested in the subject though, it’ll be an invaluable tool for deepening your understanding of Freemason culture. I have to admit- I have never had a strong interest in Freemasons, but I think a lot of that had to do with not understanding the complexity and thoroughness of it. It was a fascinating read.
A must read,
August 5, 2013, 5.0 out of 5 stars
By Amazon Customer “story teller” (Colorado)
The author starts out by giving a history of Freemasonry in the world for the past four hundred or so years in relation to world history as a whole. Then he explains the different aspects of the philosophy. It is quite interesting, and although I knew I would enjoy reading more about the subject, I had no idea how much. The author is very knowledgeable and writes better than the average author. When he explains the moral and philosophical aspects of Freemasonry, it is easy to understand why he is a respected author of many books on the subject. I appreciate his opinions and feel honored that I have been given the opportunity to read his work. This is a book that anyone interested in history, philosophy, or how man (plural) can make this world of great technological advances a better place to be. It takes inner strength of character to keep the speedy evolution of all things material from getting out of control.