One of the greatest duties I’ve been called for as a writer is to be a book reviewer. Not only does it afford me the opportunity to count my reading time as “work”, but it exposes me to multiple great works that I might otherwise never have discovered. Such is the case with “Measured Expectations: The Challenges of Today’s Freemasonry” by Michael R. Poll, which I only learned of when I was asked to review it.
I have enjoyed Brother Poll’s other works greatly, and specifically his Masonic edition of “Robert’s Rules of Order” has proven an invaluable reference during my time as Worshipful Master. If you have ever read any of his books on philosophy or esotericism, you should have a rudimentary idea of what to expect here.
This book (as with many of Brother Poll’s other books) isn’t necessarily intended to be read start to finish, although you are definitely welcome to do so. Instead, each chapter serves as a short stand alone education piece, suitable for either private reflection or for a supplement to your lodge’s education program. As such, it becomes very difficult to review this as a “book”, and we must instead look at it as a collection of papers sharing the same basic theme.
With any collection such as this, there will be some works that are stronger than others, and some that are more meaningful to you in your current journey than the rest. If I had my way, every single Mason would read the first paper, titled “A Young Man Joins A Masonic Lodge,” before their annual elections. I believe this one paper to be of such high importance to understanding the current problems in Freemasonry that I think it should be distributed as far as possible, and this paper alone is worth the purchase price of the book.
Another paper that I found fascinating had to do with the symbolism and history of the double headed eagle. I would love to see the ideas in this chapter expanded on, as it could almost be a book to itself. My only frustration is that it was much too short, and Brother Poll had to stop the article before really delving deeply into the ideas he brought up.
The remainder of the papers in the book delve into subjects such as music, the history and role of ritual, understanding the culture of different lodges, and a brief examination of the modern Scottish Rite. Conspicuously absent is any discussion of the York Rite; I’m not certain if Brother Poll does not find it an interesting topic, or if he doesn’t feel qualified to discuss it, however I would have loved to see his take on the modern York Rite in the same manner he discusses the Scottish Rite.
“Measured Expectations” is necessarily repetitive at times; as a collection of papers, some themes are touched on in multiple different papers, and each time it is from the standpoint that you did not read any of the previous papers. This isn’t a bad thing, since the intention is to use each chapter by itself, however it is something to be aware of if you choose to read it start to finish as I did.
The intention of this book is to help brothers who are newer to Masonic education find a foot in the door, and it exceeds expectations for that. The topics presented and writing style are all simple enough for a newer Mason (or one who is just finding an interest in learning more) to gain significant insight from, without boring the more experienced Mason. If this book makes you curious to start doing more in-depth research on your own, Brother Poll should consider himself highly successful.
WB. Adam Thayer is the Senior Warden of Lancaster Lodge No. 54 in Lincoln (NE) and a past master of Oliver Lodge No. 38 in Seward (NE). He’s an active member in the Knights of Saint Andrew, and on occasion remembers to visit the Scottish and York Rites as well. He continues to be reappointed to the Grand Lodge of Nebraska Education Committee, and serves with fervency and zeal. He is a sub-host on The Whence Came You podcast, and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He will not help you get your whites whiter or your brights brighter, but he does enjoy conversing with brothers from around the world!