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"Churton’s history and analysis of the Rosicrucian age is the finest yet to appear in print and is a major contribution to a comprehension of the subject: from his harbour all subsequent voyagers must set sail.

The book ends by focusing upon Elias Ashmole, who knew “the true Matter of the Philosopher’s Stone”, and moves through a detailed investigation of his milieu, illuminating his commitment to Hermetic philosophy and Freemasonry drawing together much recent work which revises our view of pre-Grand Lodge speculative Freemasonry. I urge readers not to hesitate: buy it, read it."


"Tobias Churton may already be known to some readers of this journal as the creator of an award-winning UK television series, Gnostics, in the late 1980s, as the author of a book of the same title, which accompanied the series, as the former editor of the magazine Freemasonry Today and as the maker of documentary films on the Rosicrucian tradition and on Elias Ashmole.

Churton’s method of proceeding is to cut an archaeological trench through successive layers of the spiritual history of the West and describe the connections that come to light. A trench is necessarily selective, but Churton's yields a rich and fascinating harvest. While much of the ground that he covers has already been explored, he brings a continually fresh and stimulating approach to his subject matter, and -- especially in the latter part of the book -- comes up with some bold and thought-provoking perspectives.This is not a book for those who think that historians should treat esoteric subjects with sanitised gloves and a leaden pen. Churton is both a good scholar and one who makes no bones about his own profound respect for the traditions he is dealing with. He also writes with great liveliness and often with wit. The title of the book is taken from William Blake’s poem, Jerusalem. Blake’s “golden builders” are building the promised city of Golgonooza. “This city has its citizens,” Churton writes. By that he means certain people throughout the ages who have glimpsed the Hermetic gnosis and attempted in some way to apply it.

Churton argues that the distinction between the old ‘operative’ Masonry and the so-called ‘speculative’ Masonry, which became established in 1717 with the foundation of the first Grand Lodge in London, is misleading. The date 1717, Churton maintains, has been falsely presented as the true beginning of Freemasonry as we know it today, when in fact there were earlier lodges that could have more justifiably claimed to represent the true spirit of the Craft. This will no doubt startle the more orthodox masonic historians, but Churton goes even further. He locates Staffordshire and the English Midlands as an important cradle of early Masonry and links this with the presence of a number of Cisterian monasteries in the region and a tradition of sacred architecture practised by the masons who built them. Ashmole and his fellow Masons of the seventeenth century were, according to Churton, attempting to keep alive this tradition, which had all but been destroyed during the Reformation and which was threatened once again with destruction at the hands of the Puritans in the English Civil War. This view of course will not find favour with those who see Masonry as an essentially a product of the Enlightenment, but Churton deserves credit for opening up a fascinating and fresh perspective on the early history of the Craft. Ashmole himself emerges as an intriguing, many-faceted and important figure, who deserves a full new biography, and it is hard to imagine anyone better qualified to write it than Churton."

Dr Christopher McIntosh for esoterica website (Arthur Versluis)

"Tobias Churton presents a brilliant and insightful examination of the Hermetic roots of the Rosicrucian and Freemasonic phenomena. This is a fascinating and essential work."

James Wasserman

"I recommend The Golden Builders unhesitatingly and unreservedly for its profound scholarship, painstaking research, coherent academic arguments, and absorbing readability."

Lionel Fanthorpe, co-author of Mysteries of Templar Treasure and the Holy Grail

"The Golden Builders is not only a thorough overview of the ideas and men that moulded the Hermetic traditions, it is a highly readable (dare I say entertaining?) journey through the largely unexplored sources of the Western spiritual sciences"

Lon Milo DuQuette, author of The Magick of Aleister Crowley and Understanding Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot

"A useful addition to my library on Gnosticism. Meticulously researched and above all, written in a style that will appeal to the general reader."

Tim Wallace-Murphy, co-author of Rosslyn and Templars in America

"A tour de force of Masonic research and required reading for brother Masons curious about the origins of the modern Craft, as well as anyone interested in the inner dimensions of Western history."

John Michael Greer, Freemason, Hermeticist, and co-author of Learning Ritual Magic

"The quality of Mr Churton’s research surpassed my expectations. Churton may be owed a vote of thanks for the bringing the powerful influence of lesser-known occultist Elias Ashmole into the public’s awareness."

Darcy Küntz, author of The Golden Dawn Cipher Manuscript and The Sacred Book of Henoch