More Light, Collected Masonic Writings 2017-2021 by Austin Shifrin. These thoughtful essays originally appeared in a Masonic periodical and touch on matters important not just to Masons but to the general reader curious about this oldest of fraternities. They reflect on issues of concern to everyone such as patriotism in these divided times, mortality, and tolerance.
Having put down roots in the Pittsburgh area, Austin accepted an invitation and found a home, friendship and purpose in the Masonic community. While some of the themes are particular to Masons, others show a man using reason and heart to find connections between his newfound fraternity and the Judaism he was brought up in and still practices.
The original masons who banded together centuries ago were actual brick layers, stone cutters and builders. This heritage still plays a role. In an essay on integrity, Austin notes how words from construction – words like crooked, upright, or on the level –have become embedded in common parlance as metaphors for ethical stances.
An essay called “Where Two of Three are Gathered Together” discusses how meeting via zoom has changed our interactions. Austin tackles the question of what it means to be in shared space. Can cyberspace be sanctified in the same way that physical space is? In the course of this essay we learn that Austin belongs to the Tree of Life Synagogue, which we all remember underwent a horrific attack. As he develops his thought, he overcomes his skepticism about cyber meetings and suggests, harking back to the Masons’ origins , that perhaps he and his brothers have a new material for building.
In the last entry in the book, “Presentation to the Squirrel Hill Historical Society,” Austin presents a comprehensive history of the fraternity, its various divisions, and how it has intersected with the history of the United States.Masons have long sought to make a contribution to society through philanthropy and through the gifts of time and talents.I see this book as Austin’s personal contribution. The reader will come away with new admiration for the efforts of Masons to better the world.