STEVAN V. NIKOLIC
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Royal Art

Royal Art
Northern Light Magazine, November 2006
Book Nook – Reviewed by Thomas W. Jackson, 33 

The author was born in Belgrade and has had his writings published in translations in the United States, England, and Serbia. He also lectures on Masonic traditions and history in Eastern Europe. I mention this because you will become aware of a different style of thinking than you may be used to with most American writers. Although he lives in America, he thinks and writes more like a European Freemason.

The book is written mostly as an historical analysis of the Masonic fraternity beginning with a chapter titled “What Is Freemasonry,” passing through chapters on origins, English beginnings, symbolism, the degrees and rituals, its institutionalization and growth, women in Freemasonry, anti-masonry and Masonic secrets.

Also included is an analysis of Freemasonry of the world in a chapter that the author titles “Three Traditions and Two Concepts.” This chapter looks at the craft as divided into English Freemasonry, American York Rite Freemasonry, and European Freemasonry. His analysis is excellent, but I am not sure that I can accept that all Freemasonry of the rest of the world is a variation of the three.

With this chapter the history book ends and his analysis of the craft, its deficiencies and his recommendations begins in a chapter titled, “Dawn of the Third Millennium.” I have read very few books where an analysis of these aspects of the craft was as close to my feelings as are his, with one significant exception. I disagree with him emphatically on the subject of the need for fraternal compatibility between regular and irregular Freemasons. There must be some criteria for acceptance of what Freemasonry is or anyone who wishes to be called a Freemason can be one. If we are willing to recognize all forms of the craft, can we justify taking only good men who believe in God?

This chapter contains an excellent examination of the status of American Freemasonry. I give you two quotes from it. “We know that lodge is not there to serve as a vehicle for the hierarchical advancement of those who feel the need to be appreciated in the Ma- sonic fraternity, nor is it a substitute for the charitable agencies of the society. But over the years, men interested only in fraternal and charitable activities managed to take over lodge rooms and whole jurisdictions. Their interests became a standard for the official policy of many Jurisdictions,” and “Leadership of the craft is so involved in the internal politics of who is going to sit in which office, or how they are to going to answer financially to their charitable obligation, or how they are going to manage their property, that there is simply little space left for reorganization of the system that does not function anymore.” I find this an absolutely accurate observation and analysis.

I cannot agree with him in a Masonic sense that “Belief in One God” is closely connected with acceptance of the “Holy Bible” as the “Greatest Light in Freemasonry” although Freemasonry is more prevalent in Christian countries. I point out to the author, also, that the Grand Lodge of France is not one of the largest Grand Lodges in France nor are they regarded as regular.

With these issues aside, I found it to be a remarkably good book. It presents a broader perspective than I am used to reading and the history is written with a fresh concise viewpoint. His evaluation of the North American issues is right on the mark.

A 76-page appendix is included covering abbreviations, famous Freemasons, world Masonic jurisdictions, research organizations, Masonic publications, Masonic calendar, rites and degrees, world Masonic libraries and museums and recommended literature. This inclusion of a reference appendix seems to be in style in Masonic books today.

I recommend the book to you. It is worthy of your library. ( Northern Light Magazine, Nov. 2006)

Book Reviews: Performance Art
SCOTTISH RITE JOURNAL, Jan.-Feb. 2007
Jim Tresner, 33°, Grand Cross

Brother Nikolic has produced a fascinating book. I found it a joy to read, and it is challenging as well. Especially, he deals with some of the differences and similarities in European and American Freemasonry. As he says: “In this book, I tried to make an overview, as impartially as possible, of many different interpretations of the concept of Freemasonry, its symbolism, teachings, Rituals, and history. Nonetheless, I could not escape the temptation of adding my own understandings, particularly in the chapters regarding different traditions and concepts (Three Traditions and Two Concepts), and the future of Freemasonry (Dawn of the Third Millennium).… Not claiming to be an authority on the subject, but just a passionate seeker after Truth, I humbly offer my thoughts to curious readers, with the intention of provoking their further inquiry on this valuable topic. Some may be impressed and enriched or enlightened, others angered and disturbed, but I hope to leave none indifferent.”

Fear not, Brother Nikolic. If Masonry is a performance art, the book is evidence that the performance is as varied as classical ballet, Texas line-dancing, and the Bunny-hop.

There is an amazing amount of information in this small book. The appendices include such topics as Masonic abbreviations; Masonic Calendar; A Short Overview of the Rites, Degrees, and Orders; Masonic Jurisdictions Throughout the World; Masonic Libraries and Museums; Masonic Research Organizations; Masonic Magazines; and, of course, Famous Masons.

Of special interest are the illustrations. Illustrations in many Masonic books are more or less predictable. Most of the illustrations in this book are different, and many are drawn by the author’s wife, Tamara. They have an unusual strength and vigor. Perhaps my favorite is on page 128, titled “The hardest stone to cut.” It shows a sculpted figure freeing itself from a block of marble with mallet and chisel. It’s a beautiful image of the Masonic transformation. ( Scottish Rite Journal, Jan.-Feb. 2007)

Amazing book!
By John Freeman on June 11, 2006

I have read many books about freemasonry and I would like to say Stevan Nikolic's Royal Art one of the best source of Light - Light that brings knowledge to everyone who willing to receive it. Book is impressive! Stevan did great job - he have accumulated almost all aspects of the freemasonry in very understandable form. I think everybody will find answers to many questions regarding Masonic brotherhood in the Royal Art.

So I have to recommend this book to any intelligent person who look for more education, to any man who provide interest in freemasonry, to any freemason who try to improve self in masonry.

A Great Read for anyone who wants to understand Freemasonry and what it is all about.
By Annika on June 11, 2008

I have read a lot of books on Freemasonry but this one stands out. What a breath of fresh air compared to the mystifying and rather stuffy style of many other books. The Royal Art gives an excellent and concise overview over everything Freemasonry is about, from facts to controversies. It focuses on all the right things: the value of symbols as a tool of personal development and growth; the challenge to focus on content not just form, and on the future not just the past; the exclusion of women from American Freemasonry and why it is time to move on... Thank You, Mr. Nikolic.

A Great Overview Of the World of Masonry
By J. Johnson on April 24, 2010
As a neophyte student of Masonry, I found reading the Royal Art was like a breath of fresh air. Finally, a book that covers, what I consider, the more important aspects of Masonry not only in an in-depth manner but also, one that I can understand without a dictionary on my knee. I find my self going back to it as a reference time after time. Even the Appendix are full of good, detailed information. From Masonic Symbolism to the Origins of Freemasonry; a good read.

Great book for anyone interested in Freemasonry
By Peteprint on October 15, 2008
I recently finished reading the "Royal Art" and found it to be one of the best on the subject. There are a number of grammatical errors but none that prevent understanding the work. Many books on Freemasonry are either too obscure and mystical to have much value to the average reader, or are full of fanciful nonsense regarding the origins of Freemasonry. I would highly recommend the "Royal Art" to Masons and non-masons alike. It is very basic and gives a great overview of Freemasonry's history and branches. It also provides information on the history of Women in Masonry and of Liberal, Continental European Masonry without taking any side on these issues. A great book, It was well worth purchasing.

ROYAL ART
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