The subtitle of this weighty mass of journalism is “An Investigation of America’s Most Dangerous Satanic Cult with New Evidence Linking Charlie Manson and the Son of Sam.” This tells you more about the author’s ambitions than his actual achievements. While Terry does do a good job recounting the .44-Calibre Killings and he does make a good case that David Berkowitz did not act alone, it does seem kind of significant that so many suspects turn up dead just days after the investigation focusses on them. Unfortunately the book becomes progressively weaker as he tries to document a nationwide satanic murder-cult. Much of his “evidence” consists of prison rumour, numerous dead german shepherds, and some very idiosyncratic “decodings” of the “Son of Sam” letters. He is also quick to see possession of mass-market editions of Eliphas Levi as incriminating. Terry obviously didn’t bother with personally researching contemporary occultism. He seems to have this idea that Magick is all about kinky sex, drugs and sadism and that any “white covens” are just fronts for the real satanic masters. His idea is that the “Sam cult” derives from the Process Church of the Final Judgement and from OTO. There doesn’t seem to be any good reason for this except that Terry became friendly with Ed Sanders, author of “The Family,” possibly the most thoroughly-discredited book on the Manson cult ever written. You can almost see Sanders standing over Terry telling him to put in this or that gratuitous mention. OTO took legal exception to some references and these were deleted from subsequent editions; when you read the original version you can see why.
In the end Terry doesn’t have much to show for ten year’s work aside from a collection of corpses, both human and canine. Interestingly, several of his informants are clearly telling him that the whole case is really about drug trafficking (certainly a .44 seems more in tune with organised crime than with devil worship) and that the “satanic” aspects were a veneer used to control the troops. From this book it seems those same aspects served equally well in obfuscating any attempt to solve the crimes.
This sociological approach to Prince Hall Freemasonry contains a lot of fascinating data and some even-handed evaluations. The author faults previous studies of the American “black middle class” for actually confining their observations to the black elite. He then makes a convincing case that, for his purposes, members of the Prince Hall Masonic bodies can all be considered “middle class.” While not all middle class blacks would necessarily be Masons, by taking Prince Hall Masons as an identifiable bourgeoisie within American society, Muraskin considerably expands the middle-class black population to be considered in his study.
The historical information alone, while sometimes anecdotal in structure, is of excellent value. Particular attention is devoted to Prince Hall Masonry in California, Texas, Illinois, New York and Georgia. The author very effectively debunks academic misconceptions about Masonry as a primarily rural organization, or as an antiquated society in decline. He outlines both the virtues and ambitions common to Prince Hall Masonic bodies, as well as their special challenges and shortcomings.
As an initiate of the Order myself, I found this book to be a lucid look at the “big picture” of Prince Hall Masonry, from an objective yet sympathetic outside researcher of the subject. [via]
“Birth, puberty, marriage, and death are, in all cultures, marked by ceremonies which may differ but are universal in function. Arnold van Gennep (1873–1957) was the first anthropologist to note the regularity and significance of the rituals attached to the transitional stages in man’s life, and his phrase for these, ‘the rites of passage,’ has become a part of the language of anthropology and sociology.” — back cover