Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Building Hiram Book Review By Bro. Frederic L. Milliken



Brother Frederic,
 
Thank you for sharing your kind thoughts with the world my good Brother!
F&S,
 
-- Bro. John
 
-----------------------------------------------
 
"This is by far the best book I have run into for Masonic education of Master Masons both individually and in a group at the Lodge. Its crowning glory is the ability Nagy has to combine many individual teachings and concepts into one big one, to make the whole of Masonry, what constitutes its nobleness, righteousness and virtues into a philosophy. What Nagy does is explain Masonic philosophy by explaining and connecting all its component parts. This philosophy we call Masonry is a way of life. A Freemason cannot live this way of life unless he can understand it. And that’s the job that Nagy does. He articulates the philosophy of Masonry so that Masons are able to practice it because they understand it. For that reason alone this book must be part of your library and the library of your Lodge."
 
-- Brother Frederic L. Milliken
 
 
 

Monday, June 13, 2016

Hidden in Plain Sight



This is an old American folk tale.  Enjoy!

John S. Nagy

-----------------------

 A traveler came upon an old farmer hoeing in his field beside the road. Eager to rest his feet, the wanderer hailed the countryman, who seemed happy enough to straighten his back and talk for a moment.

"What sort of people live in the next town?" asked the stranger.

"What were the people like where you've come from?" replied the farmer, answering the question with another question.

"They were a bad lot. Troublemakers all, and lazy too. The most selfish people in the world, and not a one of them to be trusted. I'm happy to be leaving the scoundrels."

"Is that so?" replied the old farmer. "Well, I'm afraid that you'll find the same sort in the next town.

Disappointed, the traveler trudged on his way, and the farmer returned to his work.

Some time later another stranger, coming from the same direction, hailed the farmer, and they stopped to talk. "What sort of people live in the next town?" he asked.

"What were the people like where you've come from?" replied the farmer once again.

"They were the best people in the world. Hard working, honest, and friendly. I'm sorry to be leaving them."

"Fear not," said the farmer. "You'll find the same sort in the next town."

Morals of the Story:
  1. Your worst enemy is self-ignorance.  Know Thyself!
  2. Your baggage owns you.  Divest!
  3. You create your own lessons.  Learn Daily!
  4. You get what you expect.  See Differently!
  5. No matter where you go, there you are.  Escape is Futile!
  6. When you want different, be different!  Transform!

 

Thursday, June 9, 2016

A Brother Asks... Why Allegory?

 


A Brother Asks: Why is Allegory used within Ritual?

My Response: It is used because it is the Primary Method used throughout history to convey Theological and Philosophical Principles and Concepts.  Such training is invaluable in laying a foundation for future studies of Ancient and Modern Theological and Philosophical Literature.
 
He Continues:  Why Train to Understand it?

My Response: It is the primary challenge and obstacle presented to and faced by anyone making effort to decode what has been encoded in languages long forgotten and things conveyed today that are masked, veiled, concealed and hidden.  Its use has side benefits and annoying side effects.

He Continues:  What are its side benefits?

My Response: It is an extremely effective method of cleverly masking, secretly veiling, carefully concealing and blatantly hiding valuable information in plain sight.

He Continues:  What is its annoying side effect?

My Response: Unskilled and ignorant individuals usually make more of it than it is ever meant to convey and use it as an excuse to:
  1. Create huge organizations of people who expend inordinate amounts of time, energy and other resources chasing mythical creatures for sacrifice,
  2. Build expensive imaginary cages that are believed to hold them temporarily once caught, and
  3. Create accurate historically veiled accounts of their imaginary exploits for posterity.

He Continues:  What makes Allegory fun?
 
My Response: Did you not read my last Response?

He Continues:  What makes Allegory interesting?
 
My Response: It invites curious minds to embrace contrasting information and to dig deeper to cultivate insights into things, issues and situations that require them to transcend what might appear contradictory at first.

F&S,

Brother John S. Nagy


 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

A Brother Asks... Why no Improvement Support Systems?



A Brother Asks:  If Freemasonry is supposed to make good men better, why doesn't it provide systems to do this?

My Response: The entire structure of Freemasonry is designed only to point the way toward betterment.  It is not designed to directly support the way toward betterment.

It will continue to work this way until the Craft realizes that pointing the way is not enough for those who want more and for those who want to attract and keep members involved.

Blue Lodge Freemasonry offers to candidates three maps that can help every one of them become a Better Man. However, it is ENTIRELY up to each candidate to learn how to read and follow these maps; the Craft as a whole cannot do this for them and for good reasons too.

The first reason is simple: The Craft were not taught that they were given these maps and they were not shown how to read them or follow them.  The system is sadly remise in supporting this end. As it is now, you have an entire organization of males who were never taught more than skills that preserve and act out Freemasonic scripts and choreography, but never engaging in what Freemasonry directs them to do.

The Second: Freemasonry rightfully assumes that each Candidate is Mature enough to Do "The Work" on his own.  When they are not mature enough, they shall find the organization fundamentally unfulfilling, foundationally flawed and ultimately boring. As they should since that is the reality that they have embraced and are engaged in.

This is the nature of males too immature to Grasp Responsibility for improving themselves and their own lives. 

Freemasonic Organizations are the ultimate "Self-Help" groups, as in, each Candidate must HELP THEMSELVES. 

Why is this?  Because, when things are working correctly, no one within the organization is going do it for them! They already know that they can't.  

They already know through experience that Mastery cannot be handed over; it must be cultivated from within by the directed Work of the person wanting it.

This doesn't mean that the system doesn't have programs designed to assist in running its operations.  It simply means that these programs are intended to support the system and only indirectly improve the men so that the system can be better supported.
 
F&S,
 
Brother John S Nagy
 
 
 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

A Brother Asks... Why no Innovations?



A Brother Asks: Why is there a section in the Worshipful Master's installation oath that proscribes innovations?

My Response: It comes directly from one of Brother Anderson's Landmarks.  The Landmark in question is as follows:
25.  That the landmarks of Masonry can never be changed.  These constitute the landmarks, or as they have sometimes been called, "the body of Masonry," in which it is not in the power of man or a body of men to make the least innovation.
And it is put in there to assure that the man taking office does not take any liberty in his office.  It is believed that any innovating action would change the Grand Lodge's franchise authorized processes, scripts and choreography that assures consistency in what is offered to all who experience a specific Jurisdiction's Rituals.

That being said, it should be clear from all the changes that have been made over the centuries and the wide diversity in rules, regulations, landmarks (that are recognized), rituals and lectures, that Freemasonry is full of innovations. It must have them since it is primarily a social Order that must keep up with the times and the norms of each society it is within.

Masonry though, being different from Freemasonry, has no innovations at its most basic core levels.
  1. Apprentice: What Masonry requires from men to mature is exactly the same now as it has been from the beginning of mankind.  
  2. Fellow: What Masonry requires of men to learn is exactly the same now as it has been from the moment such things were taught in schools as far back in time as Ancient Athens.
The core has not changed since its beginnings and, when Freemasonry came into the Grand Lodge Era (circa 1717ish), its Ritual made every effort to capture this in its Privatized Morality plays; plays that, to this day, continue to change based upon the needs of any one particular jurisdiction.  Its focus though has remained consistent:  Mature men and Make them Learned, but only when they desire to do the Work to accomplish both!

Masonry does however have technological advancements at its Master level. This occurs each time the men who Practice and Master Masonry discover new understandings or uncover old understandings that should be implemented at that level from then on.

That is why Masonry is referred to as "a Progressive Science", while Freemasonry is a static art, well, at least until societal changes force it to innovate once again, as it should.

As you perpend all this, keep in mind that the landmarks are not universally embraced and those that are, vary widely from one jurisdiction to another.  Some actually have in writing that innovations are permissible with "the consent of the Grand Lodge having first been obtained." 

F&S,

Brother John S. Nagy

Monday, April 11, 2016

A Brother Asks... Why no Females?

 
 
A Brother Asks: Why aren't females permitted in mainstream's open lodge activities?
 
My Response: Because the members of the male-craft version of Freemasonry, by way of a written proscription, decided about 300 years ago to create and support a "no female" environment. It can't get any plainer or simpler than this.
 
 
He Continues: Do you believe that it's because the Craft is keeping a stonemason tradition that didn't permit women masons?
 
My Response: No. That is not a stonecraft tradition and it never was one. Like so many other stories in Freemasonry, this lore was made up to support and justify what we have today.
 
The fact is, we are not a continuation of those guilds. We never were. That is fabricated lore that supports a fabricated fantasy; it is not fact.

Moreover, if we are to be considered a continuation of anything it would be the theatrical societies of medieval times when most all guilds put on "mystery plays" (The word "mystery" at that time meant "occupation" when applied to this term). Such theatrical groups did not permit women not because they didn't want them to participate but due to society norms and more especially the laws of the time proscribing woman from participating as actors in theatrical productions.


In other words, it was illegal to have them involved.

If you think about it, if the Craft are to continue doing the theater that we do, focusing our patrons upon their morality, and remain true to the theater norms of that time, no woman would be allowed in what we do, ever.

That being said, the tradition is outdated. Times and attitudes have changed.

 
But men's mentalities and needs to be in all men groups are not governed by the laws of man. They are governed by a strong psychological need to be away from female influences when communing with other men, even if all that they are participating in is mind-numbing business meetings.

I believe if you examine the evidence, the organization more than fills that need for some.



He Continues: Modern freemasonry has enacted many amendments to its rules, but none related to gender. Why?

My Response: We have a men's society and we like it that way for a multitude of reasons; all personal to the men folk who engage in it. 


He Continues:  Is this rule related something deeper, perhaps related to cabala, alchemy, etc.?

My Response: Nah. You can tunnel down a thousand rabbit holes of fantasy and rationalized woowoo but the central fact is simple: The membership wants a place to hang out with only their male homies. 


Sunday, April 10, 2016

A Brother Asks... How are Ashlars and Jacob's Ladder Connected?



A Brother Asks: What relationship do Ashlars and Jacob's Ladder have?

My Response: Let's lay a foundation before we get to an answer.


Ashlars

Ashlars are symbolic for living stones and more specifically they represent within Ritual:
Men who are free, believe in God, are foundationally good and known as such, who have both the capacity and desire to improve themselves and have shown that they have done some Work already.
Please recall: An ashlar is free, claimed, shows no flaws that would prevent it from being used appropriately by the Builder and it is hewn to some degree (pun intended).

Most stones are bound as aggregate within the earth. Some of it is or gets free. Some of that free stone winds up being hewn into shape through specific and directed Work to become Useful to The Builder.

Masons do this shaping Work for The Builder's Use. I truly hope you know to what I am alluding.

Let's review all this on purpose:

The use of Ashlars within Ritual is to point out through metaphor and through allegory that men who desire more must qualify (be suitable) to become members.  Additionally, they must aspire through their actions to become both better and a part of something bigger, grander and important to God.

Jacob's Ladder

This theological ladder both represents and is a connection between Heaven and Earth.  It was created by God and it was provided by Him to mankind.  It is means by which angels (God's Messengers) descend and ascend between the two.

Should a man desire to Strengthen this connection between Heaven and Earth and to have better communication between himself and God, Ritual tells and shows him that there is specific Work to which it directs him to do by way of its use.

Once again, let's review all this on purpose:
The ladder's purpose within Ritual is to point out metaphorically and allegorically the there is an connection and there is Work that men must do to strengthen that connection.
Caveat: The Work Strengthens this connection only and does not guarantee anything more. 


Relationship

You are the Ashlar and the Ladder is a Connection.  Both allude to the Work that improved your connection between
  1. Heaven and Earth
  2. With the Almighty. 
If you desire a better connection between yourself and God, Work Your Ashlar!


Afterthoughts

For more information on the Ashlar, here is an early article I wrote that is worth reading:  http://buildinghiram.blogspot.com/2009/04/ashlar-unfolded-is-published-again.html.

Admittedly, I would rewrite some of it due to what I have learned since it was first written, but I have far too many other things directing my attention these days.  It should provide a nice overview however.

F&S,

Brother John S. Nagy



Wednesday, April 6, 2016

A Brother Asks... Are the Twelve Fellow Crafts Reformed Ruffians?



A Brother Asks: Were the remaining Twelve Fellow Crafts Reformed Ruffians[1]?

My Response: Before I respond directly to your question, let me take some liberty here and lay a foundation for it. 

Freemasonry does not make good men better. That is a fabricated slogan that serves the purpose of gaining the interest of a target market.  It has worked unbelievably well over the years and is well suited to that purpose.

If you inspect the results of Craft influence in an unbiased way, it should become obvious from the evidence that it is only by Seeking and Practicing Masonry, not Freemasonry, that a Good Man becomes a Better Man.

That being said, Mainstream Freemasonry is an organization of men who collectively claim that they seek to make Good Men Better.  They also lay claim to supporting this end without wavering.  They do this by directing members' attention toward focusing upon those things that each can do to improve themselves.  They do this in the hope that Members may eventually come to know and embrace Masonry; not just Freemasonry.

However, these claims must be backed by action on the part of each member for that Betterment to be realized.  The first step toward that end is Realizing and Understanding that there actually is a difference between the organization and what it espouses. The second step is Realizing and Understanding that Participation in organizational activities is not the same as doing the Work that it espouses; these are two entirely different activities and they serve different ends. 

Should you get upset or offended by this information? Only if you insist upon not earnestly examining what Betterment of yourself actually entails.

Back to your Question

From a very deep and personal prospective, I find the Twelve Fellow Crafts who went back to Work more heroic than any other characters within the Temple's Allegorical Tale. I see taking up the Work with unwavering intent to Complete it to be one of the most heroic and noblest of journeys any Man can undertake.

To Recognize this need and Dedicate oneself to its fulfillment and completion to be a rare and noble quality.

But that's just me. I know from experience what it actually takes. A man must cultivate something very special and utterly unique within himself to take such Work on and then move it toward completion.

It Transforms the man, his life and his world.

The Work is not for wimps, wusses, or Ruffians.

And there in lies the answer to your question. 

The Twelve Fellow Craft were part of the original conspiracy to ruff[2] on the required Work.  They had every intention to ruff.  They were going to follow through with ruffing and ultimately changed their minds.  The opted out of ruffing and followed suit on pursuing the Work.  By all Blue Lodge accounts, we are left with a distinct understanding that their plans were to reform their ways and get back to business - doing the Work.

So, "Yes", they were reformed Ruffians, or, at least, Working toward that end.

F&S,

Brother John S. Nagy
-------------------------------

[1] Ruffian: One who ruffs; one who does not follow suit; one who skips over what is usually necessary to accomplish a desired end.
[2] Ruff: an archaic term meaning to "trump"; to not follow suit; to skip over what is usually necessary to accomplish a desired end.


Monday, April 4, 2016

A Brother Asks... Completing the Apprentice Work...



A Brother Asks: How do you know when you have completed the Apprentice Work?

My Response: Out of all the topics that are messed up in the minds of far too many Brothers, this is one of the top ten. 

Background: There exists a huge swath of members who are of the mentality that, because one can never ever be "flawless", one can never not be an Apprentice.  This is a misleading conclusion that is wrought by the wrongful application of a non-freemasonic religious doctrine that they have brought with them when they joined and applied upon the existing dogma of the Fraternity. 

Apprentice Work is about Laying a Foundation.  It is about Preparing to Build (Learn!)It is not about being flawless and it never was!  It is about Building a Strong Foundation of Maturity

How do you know when you have completed the Work of the first Degree? Great question! Let's go through the list (in no particular order):
  1. Proactive - You have Trained yourself to be Self-Initiating.  You do not wait for others to Prompt you toward taking actions that you know need to be taken. 
  2. Vision - You have Developed and Embraced a Clear Vision as to what you need to do to Mature. 
  3. Improvement - You know what Betterment means to you and for you.  You have focused your Energies upon bringing this about and do so without excuse.
  4. Importance - You know what's Important to you and what is not.
  5. Choices & Decisions - You make Better, and more importantly, More Mature Choices & Decisions because you know what is Important and what is not.
  6. Priorities - You focus upon things that are important. You do not participate long or frequently in any activities that are unimportant.
  7. Self-Knowledge - You are not in denial about who you truly are and what you do.  You know yourself very well and because you do, you come to know others very well too, sometimes even better than they know themselves.
  8. Values - You know what you Value, what you don't Value and why.  You do not profess or claim false values.
  9. Morality - You know your Morals and can express them clearly and succinctly.  What's more, you know where you are immoral, the consequences of that immorality and willingly embrace the liabilities involved and without excuse.
  10. Standards - You have Established Specific Standards to which you make every effort to live authentically and without excuse.
  11. Time Management - You use time more effectively first and then you use time more efficiently.
  12. Divestment - You have become skilled in both...
    1. Identifying Superfluities & Vices and
    2. Successfully Divesting yourself of them once identified.
  13. Investment - You make every effort to practice Virtues and you have Integrated them into your daily manners.
  14. Circumscription - You know what your Passions are and you Employ Successful Methods that keep them Circumscribed.
  15. Subduing - You know what your Desires are and Employ Successful Methods that keep them Subdued.
  16. Boundaries - You Successfully both Establish and Maintain your Boundaries as needed and appropriate to those with which you deal.
  17. Integrity - You know where you have Integrity and where you lack Integrity.
  18. Civility - You Integrate your knowledge, morality, awareness and skill sets effectively and considerately into all your daily dealings.
  19. Responsibility - You Embrace Responsibility for what you know you need to be doing to Mature and Maintain Maturity.
  20. Accountability - You...
    1. Stand By;
    2. Willingly Embrace; and
    3. Have Trained yourself not to Outrun by Excuse 
          ...Authentic Liabilities wrought by your Choices and Decisions.
 
Will you do all this flawlessly? Probably not. But that was never truly the goal. The Goal was to...
  1. Lay the Foundation, and
  2. Put these Activities on Auto-Pilot 
...so that you can Continue to Mature in other directions!

Here's an Apprentice Work Acid Test:  If you want to know if Brothers are either doing or have done the Apprentice Work, just go through the above list and evaluate their Progress.  Are they still struggling on any of these items?  It should become evident to you by their manner, self-knowledge and personal discipline whether they are doing or have done the work. 

However, I tend to use a short cut acid test.  I get them involved in a conversation about whether they are still Apprentices.  The moment they drift into the "We're all Apprentices" territory, it's pretty clear to me that they are and very likely have no clue what the actual Apprentice Work is and what it is Intended to Do for those who do it.  With such persons, discussing or using such an assessment list at all would be an unnecessary act.
 
F&S,
 
Brother John S. Nagy
 
 
 

Sunday, April 3, 2016

A Brother Asks: Doing Business with Brothers

 
 
A Brother Asks[1]: Coach.  I was brought into some business situations by a Brother who wanted to be paid cash only.  I engaged in these opportunities alongside him in good faith and things worked out because those paying him didn’t require any tracking, insurance or certifications.  Initially, these “cash only” situations were between him and those who were paying him, not me, and they did not affect me, at least, not directly. 
Ultimately, more opportunities opened up and, to take advantage of them, my business operations were required to deal with these other businesses directly.  However, since my business was now doing direct business with these other businesses, my Brother wanted to work for me in these opportunities and he wanted to do so for cash only, as he did before in the other situations.

And there is where the problems started.  These new opportunities required tracked payments, proof of insurance and proof of credentials. I could provide all this for my Brother through my business but he wanted no part of any of these aspects, even though I could provide them to and for him with his cooperation.  I’m still engaged in these opportunities but I can’t include him since he has made it impossible based upon his constraints.  He is quite upset about me not bending to his will on this.
The trouble he is causing now is insane.  He is an officer in my Lodge and has shared his dissatisfaction of the situation with other Lodge Brothers.  Some have approached me with what he is saying about me. It is causing disharmony for all involved.  I’m also finding out that this is not new behavior for him.  He was run out of a previous Lodge for similar activities.  I have attempted repeatedly to contact him but he refuses to respond to any effort I make. 

Coach!  Do you have any insights or suggestions?

My Response: Yes Bro.!  Please stop seeking to reconcile with him. You shall never find peace and satisfaction with this man based upon the game that is being played by him.

From what you wrote, you did him a favor by offering him an opportunity to participate and he didn't want to reciprocate professionally. He chose to not cooperate with you and not to contribute his fare share to assure that he could continue working with you. That reeks of obligation violation.
Furthermore, payment in cash means that he doesn't want to have his income tracked. The fact that he will work for "cash only" tells me that he is involved in an unethical and potentially illegal game financially and wants to consciously and deliberately usurp whatever rules that govern his financial situation.

You are doing things legally, morally and ethically and he expects you to not do this to have him involved. He does not have the right to complain if you offered him an opportunity to work with you under specific conditions that prevent YOU from getting in trouble.
Brother. Stop the game. He is offering you a place in his Drama Triangle to control you and to obtain power over you and over all that will listen to his "story". He is engaged in emotional blackmail and manipulation and that is not what friends or Brothers do to one another.

Don't give it to his game. Accept that he doesn't see that he
  1. is not on the level with you,
  2. not being upright in his dealings with you and others; and
  3. is being immoral in his choices and expectations.
You deserve better and should demand it.
If all that you say is true, you have done NOTHING WRONG, other than allow yourself to feel unnecessary guilt over all this.

But this is not all of it Brother.  Here are some thoughts to consider for your business.
Because of my varied professions ( I wear 4 business hats), I have many opportunities to do business with Brothers; and I do just that -- Business.

I now have engagement letters that establish what is required and expected in any business arrangement. Very few Brothers dishonor me due to me:
  1. being up front with what is expected to be engaged in and delivered from each of us; and
  2. expecting them to do the same.
-- and doing all this IN WRITING!

When I am asked to participate in anything underhanded, no matter how slight, I say no deal and move on.
It's an interesting experience to have a Brother spell out in writing what they expect from me. Most will not spell out anything underhanded because they realize by writing it out, they are admitting that they are asking me to engage in something that is wrong to some degree (yes, punned allusion intended!).   An upright, level and square Brother has no problem writing out what is agreed to and actually prefers it (Think Trestleboard!)

I have many great business deals with my Brothers and I shall continue to do the same as long as I am still working.
That being said, I've had a few dishonoring Brotherly engagements that drove me to use an engagement letter for all opportunities. These dishonoring Brothers are still in debt to me for what I provided to them. The interesting thing is that these Brothers are so bogged down due to other accountabilities that they have been trying to out run that they will likely go to their death never cleaning up the messes that they have been making. The sad aspect is many of them have no clue that they are engaging in life dishonorably. They have no clue that the obligation about wronging, cheating and defrauding others covers not only material (physical, legal, moral or ethical) things, but intellectual, emotional, and spiritual things as well.  

Case in point, by asking you to engage as your Brother desires you to engage, how would you be wronged, cheated or defrauded out of material (physical, legal, moral or ethical), intellectual, emotional, and spiritual values that you hold in high regard?  As a business professional, I see quite a few things immediately and I hope that you do too.
I hope this question puts a different focus on your situation!

The engagement letters I currently have and employ have helped me minimize the influence of unethical and irresponsible Brothers and others on my life and I waste less time with these sorts than ever before. I whole heartedly recommend that you do the same into the future.
Brother, you have had a lot of lessons presented to you in this situation. They were lessons only though. If you wish to learn from them, your behavior must change in line with the lessons presented.   Until your behavior changes along these lines, all you have are lessons.

Of course, you could avoid doing business with your Brothers in general. That behavior change might protect you from those who might do things like this, but it won't protect you from the true problem that you caused by not having good business practices in place when it comes to working with anyone - known or unknown.
However, you could also do business with your good Brothers and others in a way that protects you and them from the situation at hand.

You know what you should do to assure good business into the future. Do it and don't look back.
An afterthought observation and question: 
  1. Although I don't think he realizes it, your Brother did you a great service to you by distancing himself from you as he did.
  2. When you choose to look the other way when a Brother purposely gets paid in cash to avoid tracking, should that not be a fair warning to walk away too?
F&S,

Brother John S. Nagy


[1] Paraphrased, shortened and clarified for posting purposes.