Academic Journal Correspondences Reviews The Crescent and The Compass

Justine Bakker, of Rice University, has reviewed my book The Crescent and The Compass for the online academic journal Correspondences. Since the book was written for a broader audience — not for academia per se — I was surprised to learn that the site was interested in reviewing it at all.

The journal describes itself as an “an international, peer-reviewed online journal dedicated to the academic study of ‘Western Esotericism’.” It’s interests range from Gnosticism to Traditionalism. Bakker herself has focused on the Nation of Islam and African-American religious experience — subjects that appear in the my book. Here is a snippet (if I can use such a non-academic term) of the review:

Millar draws his ambitious web of historical connections in eleven short chapters, complemented by an introduction, conclusion, and afterword. The first provides an introduction to Sufism; chapter two then offers a primer to its connections with Freemasonry. It explores many of the instances in which the two “meet,” from the union of Freemasonry and Sufism in Turkey to ostensible parallels in initiation rituals. The remaining nine sections each address a different context in which Islam has encountered Freemasonry and affiliated organizations, and/or the other way around. Masons, for instance, have sought inspiration in Islam, as is the case with those affiliated with the Noble Order of the Mystic Shrine; Muslims, alternately, have joined Masonic lodges, as al-Afghani did. Likewise, Millar successfully directs our attention to the anti-Masonic tendencies in the Middle East, and to the interplay between Masonic influences and anti-Masonic tendencies in Breivik’s manifesto.

We should applaud Millar’s attempt to demonstrate and underscore this wide variety, which definitely is the text’s major strength: Millar argues convincingly that the historical connections between Muslims and Freemasonry are much more abundant, and much more complex, than is usually given credit for. Moreover, Millar successfully demonstrates that the relationship between Islam and Freemasonry is constantly shifting. For instance, whereas nineteenth century Islamic reformers believed in Freemasonry’s revolutionary potential to assist in their anti-colonial struggles, contemporary Islamists interpret the fraternity as the sinful root of American culture and society. Likewise, Freemasons were drawn to Islam for a variety of reasons, for instance because of an interest in Islamic “mysticism” or because it offered an alternative to Christianity.

You can read the whole review here.

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