by Jason Williams
Good things are worth waiting for. In the case of this treatise, it’s been two and a half centuries in the making!
There is a need for a third edition of Essai sur les mystères. The first English translation (W.H. Reece, 1862) is long out of print and contains errors that may hinder readers’ comprehension of the anonymous 1771 letter it contains. This version, discovered in the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Roma, has edits made to the French by an unknown editor in 1776, potentially making it more faithful to the original. The revisions range from minor corrections to significant changes, such as altering the recipient’s gender. However, the identity of the author and recipient may not be all that germane to the timeless message here: Freemasonry’s role as a society of symbolic philosophers who cultivate their minds, practice virtues, and engage in charity. Additionally, this work compares Freemasonry and ancient mystery groups, underscoring the importance of brotherhood, morality, and goodwill, and also addresses the deceitful attacks Masons have endured for centuries.
This isn’t a reprint of a classic. It’s a new rendition with new life breathed into it, to be enjoyed both by the layperson trying to understand the Craft and Masonic scholars taking a deeper dive into the fraternity’s golden years—when the concepts of liberty and equality were still fresh and actively being defined.
Jason Williams, MD, is a practicing psychiatrist who, by night, becomes an independent historical researcher and author. One of his areas of interest is Freemasonry during the 18th century. This is his second publication on the topic, following his debut, Brought to Light: The Mysterious George Washington Masonic Cave (2021), also published by Westphalia Press.