Friday, October 23, 2009

Building Boaz Reviewed by Bro. Terence Satchell

Building Hiram - 10/23/09


Hello Fellow Travelers!

Here is a Building Boaz review from Brother Terence Satchell that was posted last evening in the review section of Masonic Central:

"Building Boaz facilitates the advancement of
Masonic comprehension for both the newly initiated Apprentice as well as the experienced Master. ...  I will personally be making Building Boaz required reading for all of my future Masonic proteges and encourage all Freemasons to read this book..."
-- Bro. Terence Satchell

Building Boaz
October 22, 2009 by The Euphrates

I have come to find that modern Masonic literature can be compared to the preparation of food. Some Masonic literature is too light to satisfy the appetite and too bland to excite the senses. Other works on the subject of the fraternity are too rich and overpowering to the palate and leave the reader with a case of indigestion as he struggles to comprehend the knowledge contained within them. It takes an expert chef—or in this case author—to find the right combination of ingredients so that the flavor is complex but not overwhelming and the reader is left full but not gorged.

Dr. John Nagy has found this balance again in Building Boaz, the second volume in his Uncommon Catechism for Uncommon Masonic Education series. Building Boaz focuses on the symbolism of the Entered Apprentice degree using the Inquiry-Response format of the time honored Masonic catechism. It examines the lessons taught to us in Entered Apprentice degree and expands upon these themes in order to unveil a deep, intertwined network of the order’s philosophical precepts.

Building Boaz facilitates the advancement of Masonic comprehension for both the newly initiated Apprentice as well as the experienced Master. The book challenges the reader to form a deeper understanding of the initiatic rituals throughout the book. Dr. Nagy finds a way to connect Masonic ritual with the Bible, the Nag Hammadi Scrolls, Greek mythology, classical literature, and other great sources of moral instruction without making the subject matter cumbersome to even the most novice student of Masonry. This makes Building Boaz a refreshing and insightful review of the first degree of Masonry.

Dr. Nagy’s efforts have created an educational product which fills a void in today’s Masonic literature. For hundreds of years, the Freemason’s catechism has formed the backbone of the institution’s moral instruction. The catechism has instilled the basic principles of the fraternity in the minds of it’s initiates and served as the gateway to further exploration of Freemasonry’s allegorical concepts. However, in modern Freemasonry we find that the catechism is often seen in one of two opposing viewpoints: archaic and out of date or as the be-all and end-all of Masonic instruction. Building Boaz, like Nagy’s previous work Building Hiram, restores the catechism to its rightful place in Masonic education as both the staple of the Mason’s instructional diet and the springboard to a higher understanding of Masonic teachings. Not only does this format make the information contained within the book easy to comprehend for the reader, but it also allows the book to be used in the lodge for Masonic education without any further digestion. This eliminates the intimidation which many modern Freemasons face when trying to develop an educational presentation for their assemblies.

I will personally be making Building Boaz required reading for all of my future Masonic proteges and encourage all Freemasons to read this book and address the questions that it will cultivate in their minds. I hope that Building Boaz may enhance your Masonic experience as much as it has enhanced mine.

You can purchase the book here.

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

Thank you Brother Satchell!

Faternally,

Brother Coach N.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Building Hiram Scavenger Hunt

Building Hiram - 10/10/09

Hello Fellow Travelers!


33 Questions for “Just Raised” Masons to Explore and Answer

(Based upon the book: Building Hiram – Uncommon Catechism for Uncommon Masonic Education – Volume 1 by Dr. John S. Nagy)

The Work of a Raised Mason does not end with his Raising and proficiency. If he did his Work well, he is now responsible for reviewing all that has been handed him and making sense of it beyond the obvious. Below are questions designed to assist him in that Work.
  1. What are Freestones, Bastard Ashlars and Perpend Ashlars and why are they called these names specifically? (Chapter 1)
  2. How is the Height a Mason can climb determined? (Chapter 1)
  3. What is Perfection? (Chapters 1, 4)
  4. According to Ritual, what specific Work, Working tools and actions Perfect Ashlars and what specific qualities must a Rough Ashlar have for it to be accepted into Masonry? (Chapters 1, 2)
  5. What are the Six Working tools stated within American Rite, what are the Nine Working Tools stated within English Rite, what other tools are there and what are all their speculative uses? (Chapter 2)
  6. What are the Trivium and Quadrivium, what do they classically represent and what does a Mason prepare for by studying them? (Chapter 4)
  7. What do each of the separate subjects of the Trivium and Quadrivium represent the Study of, respectively? (Chapter 4)
  8. What do the Trivium and Quadrivium have to do with Raising Masons? (Chapter 4)
  9. When joined, how are the Trivium and Quadrivium represented two and three dimensionally? (Chapter 4)
  10. Besides the actual physical act, what actually Raises a Mason? (Chapter 4)
  11. What two events should occur next for any Ashlar once it is Perfected and Raised; and what tool and material are involved in these two events? (Chapters 1, 4, 12)
  12. What are the four specific Wages that a Master Mason can expect to receive for his Work? (Chapter 12)
  13. What classical elements do each of these four Wages represent and why? (Chapter 12)
  14. Where are the four Wages of Master Masons disclosed within the Volume of Sacred Law? (Chapter 12)
  15. What historical significance does the fourth and final Wage of a Master Mason have in relationship to covenants, payment and preservation? (Chapter 12)
  16. What are the names of the five Pillars stated within the five orders of architecture, whom do these Pillars represent within the Lodge and how do these five Pillars represent the Masonic Journey from Candidate through to Master Mason? (Chapter 3)
  17. What number is assigned to the second flight of stairs in the FC lecture and what does this specific section of the flight of stairs represent symbolically for Master Masons? (Chapter 4)
  18. How do the Square and Compasses relate to Heaven and Earth, what Hebrew words do they represent separately and what words do they represent when overlaid upon each other? (Chapters 1, 9)
  19. Why is it said that the “Square is the offspring of the Compasses” and how is this proven geometrically? (Chapter 9)
  20. Name the offices of the Lodge, their corresponding Jewels, and how each office functionally supports a Mason’s life outside the Lodge. (Chapter 10)
  21. What other Working Tool is referred to by the Hebrew word symbolized by the Square? (Chapter 2)
  22. How do the symbolic Penalties manifest in real life for anyone, Mason or profane, who does not honor his Word? (Chapter 6)
  23. As represented by each of the penalties, explain what is physically, functionally and spiritually lost by a person who does not keep true to his Word. (Chapter 6)
  24. What specific Working tool does each Due-guard represent and how does each relate to Heaven and Earth? (Chapter 11)
  25. What do the first flight of Stairs in the Fellow Craft degree, the steps leading up to the Worshipful Master within the Lodge and the Three Ruffians in the second part of the Third Degree all have in common? (Chapter 4)
  26. What evidence does Ritual show for the implied existence of a fourth Ruffian, what season does he represent, what is his name and what aspect of a Mason’s life does he characterize? (Chapter 5)
  27. What symbolic demands were placed upon the central Character of the second part of the Third Degree and how did each test his Integrity? (Chapters 5, 6)
  28. What is the Sacred Triad and how is it used as a measure the worth of a man’s Word when he gives it? (Chapter 8)
  29. What Three Hebrew words are alluded to by the three principle elements of the Sacred Triad and when using only the first letter of these elements, what acronym does it Spell out? (Chapter 8)
  30. What is "the fourth part of a circle," what classical element does it refer to and how does it apply to Masonic teachings? (Chapter 9)
  31. What Working tools provide Masonic clues that explain the 3-4-5 triangle and which tool denotes which number and why? (Chapters 7, 8, 9)
  32. What conditions must exist for the Lost Word to be revealed and why can it only be revealed but not spoken? (Chapters 8, 11)
  33. What are the three primary Working tools of Master Masons, how can using only two of these Working tools reveal what would normally be required using the third Working tool and if one tool is Lost, how can it be revealed once again by using the remaining two? (Chapter 9)
    Fraternally,

    Brother Coach N.

    Sunday, October 4, 2009

    Building Boaz Scavenger Hunt

    Building Boaz - 10/4/09

    Hello Fellow Travelers!

    33 Questions for “Soon to Pass” Entered Apprentice Masons to Answer

    (Based upon the book: Building Boaz – Uncommon Catechism for Uncommon Masonic Education – Volume 2 by Dr. John S. Nagy)

    Before the Entered Apprentice Mason you are mentoring Passes to Fellow Craft, you might want to have them respond to these questions first. If you have Passed beyond Entered Apprentice, you might want to review them yourself to see if the mentoring you received was sufficient enough for you to answer them.
    1) According to Ritual, what is the purpose to which Candidates Enter Masonry? (Chapter 6)
    • Intention: Focus Entered Apprentice Masons upon the Entered Apprentice Work’s purpose.
    2) How has Masonry been defined in the past and what is the central theme of the Work of Entered Apprentice Masons? (Introduction, Chapters 1, 2, 12)
    • Intention: Focus Entered Apprentice Masons upon defining Masonry, understanding the Work they must do and what they are to accomplish.
    3) To honor the purpose of Entry, what must Entered Apprentice Masons Work upon, what tasks must be completed and what results should be expected? (Introduction, Chapter 2)
    • Intention: Focus Entered Apprentice Masons upon the object of the Work, the tasks and the outcome of that Work.
    4) What is an Oblong Square and how does it point to the Work of Entered Apprentice Masons? (Chapter 6)
    • Intention: Focus Entered Apprentice Masons upon symbols point toward the Work they must do and the meaning behind such symbols.
    5) What side of the Oblong Square is shortest in the EA degree? (Chapter 6)
    • Intention: Focus Entered Apprentice Masons upon how symbols can be read.
    6) What was the name of the Mountain to which Masons must Build their Temples to the Lord, what does its name mean and what is its significance to Masonic Work? (Chapter 2)
    • Intention: Focus Entered Apprentice Masons upon the symbol, the meaning behind it and upon what the Work is founded.
    7) Based upon the history of the Masonic Temple Mount, what does the checkered pavement represent? (Chapter 7)
    • Intention: Focus Entered Apprentice Masons upon the connection between the Foundation and the Work to be done.
    8) What are Vices and Superfluities? (Chapter 7)
    • Intention: Focus Entered Apprentice Masons upon understanding the significance of these two words in the Work they must do.
    9) What is the common thread that both Vices and Superfluities have? (Chapter 7)
    • Intention: Focus Entered Apprentice Masons upon what these two word have in common in helping them identify their significance in the Work they are to do.
    10) What is the main difference between a Vice and a Superfluity? (Chapter 7)
    • Intention: Focus Entered Apprentice Masons upon what distinguishes one from another.
    11) How do Vices and Superfluities weaken Masons? (Chapter 7)
    • Intention: Focus Entered Apprentice Masons upon the impact of these two upon Masons.
    12) What are the names of the classical Vices? (Chapter 7)
    • Intention: Focus Entered Apprentice Masons upon the classical Vices and their characteristics.
    13) How do the agricultural terms “Threshing” and “Winnowing” relate to the foundation of the Masonic Temple and the Work Entered Apprentice Masons must do? (Chapter 2)
    • Intention: Focus Entered Apprentice Masons upon the historic background of the Temple Mount location and its relevance to all Masonic Work.
    14) What four biblical characters had significant events occur for them upon the Mountain where our first Masonic Temple resided, what were these significant events and what is their relationship to our Masonic Work? (Chapter 2)
    • Intention: Focus Entered Apprentice Masons upon significance events surrounding four Biblical Characters and these events relationship to Masonic Work,
    15) How do the Square and Compasses relate to Heaven and Earth? (Chapter 8)
    • Intention: Focus Entered Apprentice Masons upon a symbolic relationship that is significant to Masonic Work.
    16) How does Jacob’s dream relate to the Work that Masons must do to Strengthen themselves? (Chapters 2, 4, 8, 9, 10, 12)
    • Intention: Focus Entered Apprentice Masons upon how Jacob’s dream relates to Entered Apprentice Strengthening Work.
    17) What Work do the rungs or steps of Jacob’s Ladder relate to within Ritual? (Chapter 8)
    • Intention: Focus Entered Apprentice Masons upon the significance of these rungs or steps to Entered Apprentice Work.
    18) Whom do the Ladder’s two stingers relate to within Masonic Ritual? (Chapters 4, 8)
    • Intention: Focus Entered Apprentice Masons upon how these two stringers symbolically support their Work.
    19) What do the key and the five pedal rose signify to Masons? (Chapter 5)
    • Intention: Focus Entered Apprentice Masons upon their symbolic significance to the Work Entered Apprentices must do.
    20) How do the Key and Rose relate to Masonic Obligation? (Chapter 5)
    • Intention: Focus Entered Apprentice Masons upon how these two symbols remind Masons of what actions they are obligated to honor.
    21) What benefits will be visited upon Masons when honoring what the key or rose represent? (Chapter 5)
    • Intention: Focus Entered Apprentice Masons upon the benefits they receive when they practice the discipline these two symbols represent.
    22) When focused inward, what do the symbols of the key and rose ask Masons to seek? (Chapters 5, 11)
    • Intention: Focus Entered Apprentice Masons upon the hidden responsibilities these two symbols require them to accept and complete.
    23) What two phrases adorning the temple at Delphi best express the Work results of EA Masons? (Chapter 5, 11)
    • Intention: Focus Entered Apprentice Masons upon how ancient the messages are that they are required to understand and heed in their Work.
    24) What is the root of the word “Virtue” and how are Virtues spelled out in Entered Apprentice Ritual? (Chapters 6, 8, 9, 10)
    • Intention: Focus Entered Apprentice Masons upon what Virtues represent and remembering and recalling what they are according to Ritual.
    25) What are the names of the two groups of Virtues spoken of in Ritual? (Chapters 8, 9, 10)
    • Intention: Focus Entered Apprentice Masons upon the two major groups these Virtues are divided into.
    26) How do these two groups of Virtues differ from each other and what aspect of Masons do they support? (Chapter 4, 8)
    • Intention: Focus Entered Apprentice Masons upon knowing how these two major groups differ from one another and what they Strengthen within the Masons who practice them.
    27) What does practicing any Virtue do for Masons? (Chapters 8, 9, 10)
    • Intention: Focus Entered Apprentice Masons upon what Virtues do for Masons who practice them.
    28) What Fifth Perfect Point is implied by three Virtues, what are their common threads and how do these common threads help Masons determine if a Candidate should be let through the West Gate? (Chapter 10)
    • Intention: Focus Entered Apprentice Masons upon an implied Fifth Perfect Point, the three Virtues associated with it, the common threads these Virtues have and the significance these threads have in discerning acceptability of Candidates.
    29) What does the Thurnell represent for Entered Apprentice Masons and how does Broaching assist Entered Apprentice Masons in regard to the Work they must do? (Chapter 8)
    • Intention: Focus Entered Apprentice Masons upon what the Thurnell represents in regard to the Work they need to do and how that Work can be assisted toward completion.
    30) How is the flanked circle inculcated within Ritual? (Chapter 4)
    • Intention: Focus Entered Apprentice Masons upon taking the symbol, looking for how that symbol is acted out in Lodge and the meaning behind it.
    31) What Pillar signifies the end product of Entered Apprentice Masonic Work, whom does it represent, where is it symbolically inculcated within Ritual, how is it symbolically represented within the Lodge and where can it be found within the Volume of Sacred Law? (Chapter 4)
    • Intention: Focus Entered Apprentice Masons upon a symbol which represents the end result of Entered Apprentice Work.
    32) What does a ball or globe signify when atop a Pillar? (Chapter 4)
    • Intention: Focus Entered Apprentice Masons upon symbolism that is not well known to modern day Masons.
    33) What unique “Chamber,’ located outside the Lodge room, is widely used outside the United States of America but is not used in most Blue Lodge Masonry practiced within the United States and what Work does it emphasize. (Chapter 11)
    • Intention: Focus Entered Apprentice Masons upon a tool that is used widely outside the United States in Entered Apprentice Rituals and its usefulness in the Work of all Masons.

    Fraternally,

    Brother Coach N.

    Saturday, September 26, 2009

    Hiram's Baby Brother is Here!

    Building Boaz - 09/26/09

    Hello Fellow Travelers!

    Building Boaz - Uncommon Catechism for Uncommon Masonic Education - Volume 2 is now in print! I shipped the first pre-print ordered copies out yesterday.

    The focus of Building Boaz is Building Strength and hence the name. It has an identical format as its older Brother Hiram.

    Here are some tidbits about Boaz:

    1. There are approximately 1264 I/R (Inquiry/Response) pairs within the book.
    2. There are an average of over 100 I/R pairs per chapter.
    3. There are over 50 ciphers sprinkled throughout the book.
    4. The ciphers are a bit easier this go around. (Most are kept at an EA level.)
    5. There are over 180 pages this time. That's ~10% more than his Brother Hiram.
    6. The book has the same dimensions as his Brother Hiram -- Pocket Size!(4"x6.5")
    7. This book is kept strictly at an EA level.
    8. Brothers can use it to further their Masonic education efforts OR assist their
    Brothers with theirs.
    9. There are 12 distinct chapters.
    10. There are plenty of illustrations as distinct as the focus of the book.
    11. I''ve added a nice "presented to / by / date" page so it can be "gifted" to
    Brothers easily.
    12. I'm getting very good feedback on it so far.

    If you want to get a sneek peak inside Building Boaz click on the link.

    Fraternally,

    Brother Coach N.

    Tuesday, September 1, 2009

    The Threshing-Floor

    Building Boaz - 09/01/09

    Hello Fellow Travelers!

    I've written an exciting and interesting article for the October publication of Florida Lodge of Research Magazine and the current Lodgeroom International Magazine. It's based upon the second chapter of my new book "Building Boaz - Uncommon Catechism for Uncommon Masonic Education - Volume 2" that I'll be publishing this month.

    I hope you like it. It sure did create a firmer Foundation for my Masonic understanding. (Post-print sales are currently being accepted here.)

    Fraternally,

    Brother Coach N

    —————

    The Threshing-Floor

    A House Built upon sand shall neither stand well nor stand long.(1)
    — Dr. John S. Nagy


    Summary: King Solomon’s choice of location to Build his Temple upon has many overlaying references that have much significance to Masons. Examining its rich history reveals Strong criteria for its selection. Masons would do well to understand the connections this Temple location has for any other Building they may conceive, design and eventually Build.
    —————
    Overview
    Far too many Masons have grown up in cultures that do not give full credence to the rich metaphors that allow for instant understanding of the Masonic symbols before them. The Threshing-floor is one such metaphor of a special location for activity that all Masons should be prepared to engage in very early in their Masonic Journey.

    On the Threshing-floor, the fruit of the harvest is laid out before them; further Work is put forth to separate the grain heads from the chaff that nurtured the grain to maturity. Winnowing efforts are put forth in this activity, forcing movement of the chaff away from the grain so desired.

    Like threshers from any era, Masons must also learn how to separate that which is important from that which is not. Without this vital skill, further improvement in Masonry, a primary goal for Masons at any stage, will not occur. Masons should learn this skill early on as Entered Apprentice Masons and apply it at all times from then on.

    This crucial skill though is not pointed out as a Foundation to which Masonry is Built upon. Archaic references to the Foundation are few and modern day Masons would be hard pressed to provide exact connections to the Foundation if they were limited to the Ritual references themselves.

    Yet, if Masons took time to examine Ritual carefully and look into the history of King Solomon’s Temple, as provided by the Volume of Sacred Law and specifically the land in which it was Built upon, they would find a rich harvest of connections. Before them would be an abundance of lessons that would profit them and those they encounter. They would have examples of human desire focused in grand style to assure actions were honorable and respecting. They would discover deeper meaning and understanding that made for better choices in life. They would also create a clarity and continuity surrounding the Work that they endeavor to undertake as Masons in Masonry.

    We each Build a Temple that is our own. The plans for that Temple are Masonic in origin and follow the prototype of that which was Built by King Solomon many years ago. That foundation is upon a mountain called “Moriah.” The significance of this name is important to all Masons. The significance of its history is just as important.

    History
    The name “Moriah” occurs first in our Volume of Sacred Law in the Book of Genesis. It is attributed to a mountain range that has a rich history that Masons would do well to know and learn from. Traditionally, Moriah is the location of a specific mountain but Rabbinical tradition often attributes many significant occurrences directly to Mount Moriah particularly; many of which Masons would benefit from by knowing how they support their Masonic Work.

    Abraham
    One such occurrence was the story of a man who is credited to be the father of three monotheistic religions. The Moriah mountain range was the location to which the Friend of God(2) also known as “Abraham,” intended to sacrifice his son Isaac to his Lord.(3)

    As an interesting tangent to this, it is important to know what the word “sacrifice” originally meant many years ago; its meaning was “to make Holy.” It was believed at that time that gifts must be offered to that which was revered and worshiped. To do this, one must “make Holy” that gift in order for it to be acceptable. This often involved burning such offerings. This method of sacrificing is called “holocaust,” which is from a Greek root word meaning “burnt whole”; a practice which was believed to make that gift transcend into the spiritual domain. The unfortunate aspect of the word “sacrifice” today is that it has changed over the years from its original meaning. It has shifted semantically to mean “to give up” and hence “loose something;” usually for some greater good.

    True sacrifice though involves no loss whatsoever. It only involves a willing act of glad-full giving. In this respect, to truly sacrifice, Masons must willingly and gladly offer up to “make Holy” that which they have been blessed with, giving only their best; no greater gift in sacrifice could be made.

    As important as the act of sacrifice has been emphasized to us over the years, the Volume of Sacred Law tells us that sacrifice itself is not the most desirable actions to take. If fact, it tells us that “the performance of charity(4) and prudence(5) is more desirable to God than sacrifice.(6)” It also tells us that “Loving-kindness(7) I desire, not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.(8)”

    As many Masons will admit outright, much of these sentiments are emphasized in Ritual throughout the degrees.

    Jacob
    The next event significant to Masonic Work came with travels of the next generation. It was Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, that subsequently had occasion to visit Moriah(9) and with grand significance to Masons. It was while he was upon Moriah , that he took its freestones and made a pillow to support him in his sleep. During his sleep that night, Jacob dreamt(10) of a connection between Heaven and Earth called a “Sullam.”(11) Sullam means “a graduated ramp, staircase or ladder.” It is the first and last time this word is used within the Volume of Sacred Law.

    In that dream, Jacob saw God’s Angels ascending and descending this connection. Upon waking from his dream, Jacobs said, “Surely Jehovah is in this place; and I knew not. This is none other than the House of God, and this is the gate to heaven.” Jacob proceeded to rename the location “Bethal”, which means “House of God.” He also set up the first of two stone pillars to acknowledge this belief, saying, “This stone which I have set for a Pillar shall be God’s House.”

    The Ladder of Jacob’s dream is most significant to Masons and their Work, especially at the EA level. The ladder represents the connection between Heaven and Earth. There are too few Masons that know the double significance of this. The Compasses and Square are symbolic of Heaven and Earth too. The connection dreamt of by Jacob also exists between these two. Masons associate the rungs of Jacob’s Ladder with the Seven Virtues that are spoken of in the EA Lecture. The message Masons should glean from these elements is that the connection between Heaven and Earth, and hence Masonry itself, is Strengthened through the practice of these Virtues, as symbolized by the ladder’s rungs.

    Ornan
    More Masonic significance occurred years later. Mount Moriah came under ownership of a Jebusite(12) ruler named “Ornan” and whose Hittite title was “Araunah.” Ornan used the location as a threshing –floor. In modern times, threshing-floors are not what many Masons might be exposed to much less have any experience with. In fact, a random survey of Brothers may turn up only a few who understand what the act of threshing is. For many of us with a passing interest, we would look up this word and find that threshing is the act of breaking off the grain heads from the chaff that it grew upon. Further investigation would reveal that this act was followed by something called “winnowing;” a divestment of the chaff from the desired grain it was once connected to. This was sometimes done by rigorously fanning the grain and chaff but was best accomplished in a well lit open space that had lots of wind. The wind was useful in that it carried the lighter chaff away from the heavier grain by merely throwing all of it up into the air. Ornan’s Threshing floor was on the top of Mount Moriah which had both aspects of light and wind in abundance.

    Of course, Masons will recognize immediately the significance of the threshing-floor. It is a place where that which is important is separated from that which is unimportant; truth from falsehood; that which nurtures from that which doesn’t; the very actions that Masons must take upon themselves as they progress through their Masonic Work. Obviously the use of Light and a fair amount of directed Wind, in the form of Spiritual guidance, is very useful in this activity. This should start to occur immediately upon Entering upon the threshing-floor.

    Of interest to note: The entrance of the threshing-floor is called the “threshold.” Masons will recognize immediately that the threshold is symbolic of the entrance or porch to which all Masons must Pass through to bring them to Light and Spirit; abundantly found upon the Masonic threshing-floor within any existing Masonic Temple.

    Threshing and Winnowing are common metaphors for the exercising of judgment(13) and purification.(14) They are also vital skills that help Masons to Divest themselves from the Vices and Superfluities of life.(15) The threshing-floor also symbolizes blessings and abundance for Masons. As stated in the Volume of Sacred Law: And your contribution shall be counted to you as though it were the grain of the threshing floor, and as the fullness of the winepress.(16), The threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.(17) and When ye have heaved the best thereof from it, then it shall be counted [to you] as the increase of the threshing-floor, and as produce of the winepress.(18)

    This scripture echoes the sentiments often heard within the halls of Masonic discourse: You get from Masonry what you put in.

    David
    Yet further significance for Masons came into play when King David had reign over the people of this area in and around Mount Moriah. It was this very mountain location, Ornan’s Threshing-floor, that King David noticed an angel of the Lord.(19) When King David took notice, this angel was visiting a three day plague upon the surrounding communities as punishment to King David for taking a census of the war capable men within his kingdom. God didn’t like this and hence His angel was sent. When King David first noticed God’s messenger, it was about to visit that plague upon King David’s people in Jerusalem too. The angel held off though and the prophet Gad immediately instructed King David to Build an Altar to the Lord God to give thanks. King David complied immediately without any hesitation of mind in him whatsoever. The message of King David’s actions should be a clear and firm lesson to Masons: One must take action without hesitation when the instruction is sound and communicates Good Orderly Direction.

    There was of course the formality of Building upon land that was not rightfully his. King David recognized this issue and made effort to purchase the threshing-floor from Ornan. Being subject to King David’s rule, Ornan offered up the land freely, along with an array of suitable sacrifices(20) for the intended Altar. King David would not hear of it however; he said to Ornan, "No, but I will buy it for the full price.”(21) His reasoning was straightforward. King David would neither take for his Lord what was someone else’s, nor offer burnt offerings which cost him nothing.(22)

    His actions offered some other clear and firm lessons for all Masons to learn from. One lesson was to make sure that the Foundation one Builds upon and what was to be offered to be “made Holy” was procured fairly and equitably before proceeding. Another lesson provided was to treat others fairly and rightfully even if one may reign over them. Yet another lesson that is important for Masons to note is to deal in such a way that there is never any question of ownership.

    Solomon
    Mount Moriah’s significance to Masons doesn’t stop there. It is also the location where King David’s son, King Solomon, Built a Temple and dwelling place for the Most High. The Temple was Built upon what was originally Ornan’s Threshing-floor, and surrounded King David’s Altar, the eventual resting place of the Arc of the Covenant.

    Masons use the Building of King Solomon’s Temple as a basis for many of the metaphors and symbols used within Masonry. One such symbol, the checkered pavement found upon the ground floor which occupies the very place where threshing once occurred, should remind Masons of the “Wheat and Chaff” that must be separated in their own lives once they are initiated into the fellowship; a skill that becomes more and more valuable as other Work is taken on in higher degrees.

    Candidates arriving at this threshing-floor, approach it from “the lofty towers of Babel, where language was confounded and Masonry lost.” Coming upon this threshing-floor of Ornan the Jebusite, they find that language is restored and Masonry is found. Upon initiation, Masons come out of the profane world, filled with much darkness, ignorance and confusion, as there was at the tower of Babel, and that they approach a Masonic world, where there is Light, Understanding and Order, as at the Temple Built upon Ornan’s threshing-floor.

    Review
    Reviewing all these events should help bring things into prospective as to the overall significance of this Temple Mount location. The place where Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac; where Jacob dreamt of a heavenly connection and acknowledged God’s presence; where King Ornan threshed to separate the important from the unimportant; where King David Built an Altar in thanks to the Lord; where King Solomon built a Temple to House that Altar and the Lord; all occurred upon Moriah. As significant as all these events may now seem to Masonic readers, the meaning behind this specific location should bear far more significance.

    For all of these events to unfold, specific aspects needed to be in place. A willingness to offer to “make Holy” blessings was one such aspect. A willingness to separate that which is important from that which is not is another. A willingness to acknowledge God’s presence and the connection between Heaven and Earth was a third and forth. A willingness to Build Sacred structures was a fifth aspect. Masons may ask themselves “what was the driving force behind all this willingness; what supported all this?” And they would not have far to look to find the answer.

    Moriah means “God is my Teacher.” Strict interpretation of the word conveys that it specifically means "ordained/considered by Yahweh." Being the Foundation of so many events, it is clear that all of them were supported upon the Instruction of God.

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

    About the Article: This article is based on the Masonic writings, “The Threshing-floor” and “The Threshing-floor Catechism” written by Dr. John S. Nagy. They are found in the book “Building Boaz – Uncommon Catechism for Uncommon Masonic Education - Volume 2” by the same author. The book is published by PG Publishing.

    About the Author: Dr. John S. Nagy is a Master Mason and member of Tampa Bay Lodge No. 252 in Tampa Bay Florida and also the Florida Lodge of Research. He is their Lodge Musician and occasional Masonic Education provider.

    (1) Matthew 7:26-27
    (2) Isaiah 41:8, 2 Chronicles 20:7
    (3) Genesis 22:10
    (4) tzedakah
    (5) judgment
    (6) Proverbs 21:3
    (7) mercy
    (8) Hosea 6:6
    (9) Although the location of this event is clearly stated as not Moriah in the Volume of Sacred Law, Rabbinical tradition states that this location was indeed accepted as Mount Moriah.
    (10) Genesis 28:12
    (11) Those interested in the construct of Hebrew words would do well to investigate the significance of the Hebrew letters “SLM.”
    (12) 1 Chronicles 21:15
    (13) Daniel 2:35
    (14) Matthew 3:12, Luke 3:17
    (15) Hosea 13:3
    (16) Numbers 18:27
    (17) Joel 2:24
    (18) Numbers 18:30
    (19) 1 Chronicles 21:16
    (20) 1 Chronicles 21:23
    (21) 1 Chronicles 21:22
    (22) 1 Chronicles 21:24

    Sunday, August 23, 2009

    Jim Tresner on: Building Hiram - A Review

    Building Hiram - 08/23/09

    Hello Fellow Travelers!

    The following is a review of Building Hiram by James T. Tresner II, 33°, Grand Cross.

    ---------- (Start Review) ----------
    Building Hiram Book Review
    written by James T. Tresner II, Book Review Editor
    Scottish Rite Journal - September/October 2009
    (His full book review article can be found here.)

    Nagy, John, Building Hiram: Uncommon Catechism for Uncommon Masonic Education. Volume 1, Lutz, Florida: Promethean Genesis Publishing, 2009, 162 pages, softbound, pocket size [4″ × 6.5″] illustrations, ISBN 13: 978–0–9793070–3–4 Available on the Internet from about $18.

    It is very hard to find any sort of systematized method for teaching the spiritual aspects of Freemasonry, the material behind the symbols. Bro. & Dr. Nagy has developed a fine system, built on the question and answer (or as he calls it “Inquiry and Response” ) format of the categorical lectures. I was sent a copy of the book for review, went on line and purchased a second copy, and used it at a once-a-month discussion group called “Beyond the Ritual” which meets to cuss and discuss the meanings of Masonry. We passed the books around, one person reading the question, another reading the answer, and then stopping to fight about it. The guys really enjoyed it.

    There is a necessary caveat. Since we are speaking of the interpretation of symbols, remember there is no such thing as an “official” or “approved” interpretation. Each Mason interprets the symbols of Masonry for himself. So you are completely free to agree or disagree with anything he suggests. But I can promise you it will create discussion, either in yourself or in a group. Here is a sample:
    I: Name another tool that aids in Masonic efforts.
    R: The Plumb
    I: How is it so represented?
    R: By Hiram Abiff, the Junior Warden, and the Due-Guard of the First Degree.
    I: What is its intended Use?
    R: To prove Verticals
    I: What are Verticals to Masons?
    R: Verticals are guides that let Masons know when their Stones show specific leanings that are not upright in the Eyes of the Great Architect of the Universe.…
    I: How should the Plumb be so affixed?
    R: To that which is Above.
    I: Why so?
    R: Only when the Plumb is affixed to that which is Above shall it be of use to the Builder in his Work Below.
    I’ve had some really interesting discussions sparked by this material.

    ---------- (End Review) ----------

    In a follow up e-mail, Brother Jim said the following:

    Bro. John

    The first book [Building Hiram] is excellent. We are still using it in the discussion group and the guys are greatly enjoying it.

    Thanks,

    Jim Tresner
    I like it when a book is use-able!

    Fraternally,

    Brother Coach N.

    Tuesday, May 26, 2009

    From One Author to Another

    Building Hiram - 05/26/09

    Hello Fellow Travelers!

    I was honored to receive an e-mail the other day that was unexpected. The Brother who wrote it is Terence Satchell. Brother Terence is the writer of a very thought provoking Masonic blog called Banks of the Euphrates.

    I'm a bit embarrassed by the significance of what he wrote (but not enough to keep from sharing it.) I hope you enjoy his letter as much as I did.

    Fraternally,

    Brother Coach N

    ----------
    Brother Nagy,

    I have been taking my time reading through your book “Building Hiram” and wanted to tell you how much I am enjoying the book. Every once in a while, a book comes along--Masonic or otherwise--that changes the way that we think and act. Building Hiram has done that for me. It has refreshed my view on Freemasonry and has provided me with much inspiration for my articles and many points of meditation. What I love about the book is that it requires you to think about Masonry in a whole new light and that it doesn't just show you how to think about Masonry, but it teaches you how to act as a Mason.

    I've observed a change in the way that I carry myself as a Freemason and interact with my Brothers and my lodge and even in the focus of the subjects of my future articles that I have been writing. I've been recommending your book to everyone and, if I may be so bold, I regard it as the best Masonic book since Carl Claudy was writing. It is simply phenomenal.

    I hope that I will have the opportunity to meet you in person and absorb some of your knowledge one of these days, but for now I will just say that I am truly indebted to you for your eye-opening work. It has restored my faith in Freemasonry.

    Your Brother,

    Terence Satchell
    Banks of the Euphrates
    (Letter used with permission from the author)

    Saturday, April 18, 2009

    Warming Up for Tomorrow's Podcast

    Building Hiram - 04/18/09

    Hello Fellow Travelers!

    I had the distinct honor of having a Building Hiram Podcast Pre-Interview with Brother Greg Stewart this last Wednesday night. What I thought was to be a "quick" overview of what was going to be covered in the upcoming podcast quickly turned into a lively meandering and exciting 90 minute plus chat about the book, what was in it, how it came, why the size was chosen, how compact and yet filled it is, some of what was not shared in the book about and future planned volumes.

    If our talk this last Wednesday evening was any indication of what is going to occur tomorrow night, it is a conversation that should not be missed!

    Fraternally,

    Brother Coach N

    Saturday, April 11, 2009

    "The Ashlar Unfolded" is Published again!

    Building Hiram - 04/11/09

    Hello Fellow Travelers!

    I'm proud to say that the following was recently published in the Florida Lodge of Research Magazine "Further Light".

    THE ASHLAR UNFOLDED

    Above all, stone is. It always remains itself, and exists of itself; … Rock shows him [mankind] something that transcends the precariousness of his humanity; an absolute mode of being. Its strength, its motionlessness, its size and its strange outlines are none of them human; they indicate the presence of something that fascinates, terrifies, attracts and threatens, all at once. In its grandeur, its hardness, its shape and its colour, man is faced with a reality and a force that belong to some world other than the profane world of which he is himself a part. (Mircea Eliade, Patterns in comparative religion, chap. 6)

    If you’ve heard the word “Ashlar” used in Freemasonry, it’s because Masons work in Stone and Stone Work is a dominant Theme. The Words “Stone” and “Ashlar” are literal in their reference but figurative in any application in Masonic Work. The Stone that any Mason works is the Stone of a Mason’s Self. Worked Stone, as in “a Stone that is dressed in some fashion,” is called “Ashlar.” To understand more fully the reasons why the word “Stone” and “Ashlar” are used in Masonry though one must look into some of the history behind their references.

    The use of the word “Stone” specifically derives from the understanding that Human Beings are a mix of both Spirit and Flesh. Reading this, one might at once raise a voice in protest by saying, “What do these have to do with Stone, which is neither Spirit nor Flesh?” The reasons may not be clear or obvious at first glance until further connections are uncovered. Let’s explore these connections further.

    The spiritual aspect of our Being, is classically referred to as “The Father/Source”; the physical aspect of our Being, is classically referred to as “The Son.” When these two aspects are put forth using Hebrew words, “Father” is written as “AB” and it means “the Strength of the House”; “Son” is written as “BN” and it means “To Continue the House.”

    Stone plays into this in a specific manner. By melding the Hebrew words for Father and Son or AB-BN, the Hebrew word for Stone “ABN” is created. When this word is used as a verb, ABN means, “Build”; when it is used as a noun, it means “Stone.” In that melding of the Spirit and Flesh, called humankind, “Built-Stone” is created. Above all, Masonry is the Craft of Working with this Built-Stone.

    If you take a good look at the majority of Stone that exists in our world today, and all that has ever existed, you can easily see that most of it is locked up in earth. Further survey tells you immediately that most Stone is created “captured” by the surrounding aggregate and it is not free to do anything other than merely exist in that bound up state.

    Some of this Stone though is released from the ground, which once held it firmly. This freed up Stone is just that, merely “freed up” and hence is quite appropriately called “Freestone.” Freestone is not Ashlar though. To become Ashlar, Freestone must be Worked or Dressed in some manner or form. Until it is, it is merely free.

    After it is released from the ground and freed from the binds that held it in place, only Freestone with good Character may be selected for the Builder’s use.

    Initially, Freestone that is Worked and roughly squared at the quarry is referred to as “Bastard Ashlar.” It has yet to be moved for use. It is however, further examined at this point to determine if it has the qualities that would be useful to the Builder. If it has detrimental flaws, character traits that show it to be missing elements that would cause failure should it be further Worked and then United with other Stones, the Builder will reject it. If it shows itself to be without these flaws and has good prospects for becoming a Perfect Ashlar, then the Builder may choose to remove it from the quarry for use.

    Once an Ashlar is claimed and moved from the quarry for use though, this dressed Stone is referred to “Rough Ashlar.” It is called such because it was chosen for the Builder’s use but it has yet to be shaped and finished.

    Rough Ashlar is Stone in an untutored, unpolished and unrefined state. Rough Ashlars are the state in which Future Masons arrive at and enter into Masonry. Candidates, in the Rough Ashlar state, have already been properly characterized as individuals whom are of high regard, well vouched for, of legal age, and a host of other considerations, depending on the Masonic Order of choice.

    With entry into a Masonic Order, the Rough Ashlar, now Entered Apprentice, is introduced to a variety of Working tools during the Entered Apprentice Degree that are designed to help him in his further Stone Work. Since the Work to be done is to one’s own Stone, it’s up to the Entered Apprentice to learn how to use the Tools of the Craft well. For this to occur, other Stones called “Fellow Craft Masons” and “Master Masons” are available to assist in the Entered Apprentice’s Stone Work.

    As Rough Ashlar is Worked and is hammer-dressed, it is called a “Common-Ashlar.” As Masonic Work proceeds on the Stone that is the Rough Ashlar or Entered Apprentice, it is eventually crafted into a “Perfect Ashlar.”

    Please note that the use of the word “perfect,” and all the Masonic variations in its use when referring to Ashlars, does not denote “flawlessness.” This assumption that “flawlessness” means “perfection” is a dangerous one that will lead the best of intended Masons down a road of never being of any great use to the Builder. Masons believing that they are Working toward flawlessness are misguided. They operate with a false belief. When Freestone is selected by the Builder for Work to be done upon it, it is selected because it is already seen to be without flaws that would prevent it from being used.

    Let’s stress these last points once again: Perfection in working Ashlar refers to the “maturing” and bringing it to the state in which it has use for the Builder. In other words, the Perfect Ashlar shows no flaw that would prevent it from being used before it is Perfected and is called “Perfect” only when it has reached a point when it has use to the Builder.

    There are also differences in the meaning of “Ashlar” when it comes to Masonry and actual stone working. In Masonry, useful Stones are considered “Perfect Ashlars”; these Stones have all six faces cut at right angles so they can be joined smoothly to other Perfect Ashlars. In actual stone working practice though, useful stones are considered “ashlars”; these stones are cut square only on the sides intended to adjoin to other ashlars, no matter whether non-adjoining faces are dressed or not.

    To assist a Mason in transforming toward usefulness, more tools are introduced to the Entered Apprentice during the Fellow Craft Degree. Once this Degree concludes, the Entered Apprentice is then a Fellow Craft Mason and is expected to Prefect the Rough Ashlar with those Working Tools. To do this Work though, it is important for the Fellow Craft to understand that, just in the case of the Entered Apprentice Stone Work, nothing is added to the Stone being Worked. A Worked Stone is only to have things removed that are not conducive to a Perfected state.

    With skilled use of the given Masonic Working Tools, the Stone is thus transformed from its Rough state to its Perfect state. Only after “what is not needed” has been removed does the Worked Stone become useful to the Builder. This Perfected Stone, now called the “Perfect Ashlar,” is a Stone suitable for use in the Building of a “house, not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” Stone in this state is well educated, polished and refined. The Masonic Work on the Stone itself is complete.

    Yet, it is also premature to believe that all Masonic Work is completed at this stage. It has not. While one might conclude that the Masonic Work on one’s Stone ends after Perfecting the Ashlar, this conclusion is misleading. There is further Work to be done and this Work requires other Perfect Ashlars to commence. More specifically, Perfect Ashlars that have been Raise and Cemented into one unified Structure must be involved. These are the Stones called “Master Masons.” Master Masons are those Perfect Ashlars whose Stone Work continues with the unified efforts of other Perfect Ashlars. Exploring a little background on this reveals how this occurs.

    In Ancient Masonic Ritual, there is mention of a special Stone called the “Perpend Ashlar” or “Bond Stone.” It’s a Building term used by Stonemasons to describe Perfect Ashlars used to connect the Inner and Outer layers of walls that create Buildings. Stone walls are usually built with two layers of Perfect Ashlar, an inner and an outer, and may or may not have rubble sandwiched between them. Either way, these two walls require connecter Stones to stabilize the Structure thus Built. Perpend Stones are those Stones whose lengths allow them to extend from the outside of the outer wall to the inside of the inner wall thus showing their smooth faces on the construct’s inner and outer surfaces. All the Stones used in the construct are Raised into position, properly aligned and placed.

    Once placed, these Stones are then joined together as one unified interlocking mass. Unification is done using Cement (a.k.a. “Brotherly Love”), spread with yet another working tool, to allow these unified structures to be created. The amount of Cement required is directly proportional to the roughness of the finish. Rougher finishes require the most amount of Cement; smoother finishes require far less Cement to unify a Structure. The former does not allow for the closeness that the latter does by default.

    Whether used as a Perpend or Perfect Ashlar in any construct, both Stone types use all the tools of the Craft to assure that what is Built has Integrity. A single Stone lacking Integrity jeopardizes anything that is Built.

    When Perfect Ashlars are Raised into position, placed in proper alignment with others and cemented together with others, they create Buildings that enable all to contribute best to each other’s welfare.

    --------------
    From the ground comes the Stone, freed from that which binds and prevents its perfection and contribution. Thus selected, Stone is crafted, eventually matured and bound in Brotherly love to contribute to the welfare of all.
    --------------

    Perpend: To consider carefully; to ponder; to be attentive; to reflect.

    Questions to Perpend:

    1) What brings a Stone from the ground?
    2) For what purpose is a Stone removed from the ground?
    3) Who is the Builder?
    4) What is the Builder’s use?
    5) What is the difference between the “Perpend” and “Perfect” Ashlars?

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

    About the Article: This is a direct chapter excerpt from “Lifting the Veil – Esoteric Masonic Thought” published by PG Publishing with permission from the author. The chapter is based on the Masonic catechism, “The Ashlar Catechism” written by Dr. John S. Nagy and is from the book “Building Hiram – Uncommon Catechism for Uncommon Masonic Education” by the same author.

    Fraternally,

    Brother Coach N

    Saturday, March 28, 2009

    Staying the Course

    Building Hiram - 03/28/09

    Hello Fellow Travelers!

    I wrote this as an article near three years ago; it is amazing how this theme of Integrity of one’s Word continues to play out in my life.


    These creatures called “words” have remarkable power. I see the influence they have over others – including myself. My two little sons are prime examples of how these creatures shape and improve our lives. They’re also prime examples of how dishonoring our words can degrade us in a split second. Countless occasions occur where these creatures test our obligation to keep those values that we try to create for ourselves.

    One such occasion played out for my family the day before Thanksgiving. On that day, my eldest son had not followed through on his word. He’d promised me that he would do something and he didn’t. As a result, I was tasked with confronting him on the issue. No, I didn’t enjoy having to do this but didn’t hold back because of the unpleasantness of the job. You see, I was on the hook too -- and in a big way. I had given him my word to help him hold himself accountable for what he had promised to do.

    The time for being my word was before me too. In the moment, these little word creatures started pulling me in two directions: Do I let it slide or do I follow through on what I had promised. The choice was already made before I came to this crossroad. Even though this was so, those creatures were creating quite a cackle in the back seat of my mind to find some way to both honor my word and let him off.

    I cringed. My mind chatter got louder. Could I find any loophole? Was it really that important? Maybe I could find a “get out of jail” card somewhere. What a noisy racket to deal with!

    What was the consequence for my son you might ask? That was easy. The standard for infractions in our household is much like that used in grade school. We use simple colored cards – green, yellow, red and blue. Each color indicates the status of choice making during a 24 hour period. Color cards progress from green to yellow to red and finally to blue. Green means that all is well and good choices are occurring. Each one after green was a direct indicator that the choices were not good and were progressively compounding in nature.

    In this case, my son got “yellow carded.” This meant both a warning had been given and an agreement to abide by a rule was summarily ignored. A bad choice on his part resulted in desert being left out from the next meal. (Yes, you guessed right -- desert is a big motivator in our family.)

    That was what was at stake. It was behind the din that was so overwhelming in my mind’s ear. The next meal was our ‘Thanksgiving Celebration” meal. The desert that evening? A prized “apple-pie.” Not a light consequence for a young man whose mind was set on enjoying this sweet delight.

    That consequence caused the creatures to gnaw and tug at my own commitment. What could I do? What should I do?

    Once again, the choice was made long before the situation occurred yet my creative mind started to kick into overdrive when the next day, my son appeared before me. With a tear in his voice and a look that would have beat out the best of sorrow-filled puppies, my son approached me and asked if he could have desert after dinner. The creatures I constructed long before came into earshot as new creatures sprang into being to battle those who had claimed rights to govern this choice.

    I thought for a moment that I could let it slide just this once but understood instantly that there would be a time in the future when he would choose not to do something because he knew there was a chance that he would not be held accountable for it. Not being acceptable, the legion of word creatures stirred an alternative thought: I could have some pie too and share mine with him because technically, he was not having his desert -- he was having mine. Gosh, these excuses were sure creative!

    To compound the erosion of my resolve, I even imagined him sharing some of his pie with me the following day because I was so generous with sharing mine. (My heart leaped at this thought!) My mind raced through countless possibilities and I could feel the tension building up in my gut -- battle fatigue does this ever time.

    Surprisingly, the creature in command busted through my mind chatter and the siege ceased quite suddenly. I heard it leaping from my mouth. I asked my son what should happen to me should I not keep my word to help him hold himself accountable to his word. He looked at me with that look of a young man trying to tame his own creature zoo. I could see in his eyes that he had the same challenge going on within that only a person with conscience could recognize.

    He looked at me and understood -- I would have to break my word if I would not hold him accountable for breaking his. “Gosh Dad,” he said softly, “this accountability stuff sure gets messed up if you don’t honor your word.” I knew what he meant. We looked at each other. Our creatures settled down to a warm embracing hum.

    He smiled and thanked me for following through on a tough job. We hugged and I said that I would save my pie for tomorrow so I could share it with him. He smiled again. I knew in that moment that I had laid a strong foundation for future trust -- my creatures agreed.

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

    The steps people take to create more value in their lives are simple and are fundamental to the success each of them will have – with long-term consequences we may never be able to predict. To create this, there must be a commitment made that has every (not some) intention of being followed through on. Intention on this is everything but least you put this forth and find yourself in a basket sweating profusely because the intension was not followed through on in a supportive manner, you must put things into place that will both push and pull you toward your intention.

    Fortunately life has a way of supporting our intentions in spite of what may seem to be unbearable odds so make sure you have that intention firmly entrenched in your heart and respected at all times. It’s often half the battle.

    Both the intention of my wife and I is to make sure that our children have least two role models in their lives with reasonably consistent integrity. That all begins with us being our word without excuse.

    There are things that can be done though to add value to one’s life. First off, one can commit one’s self to perfecting one’s ability to be true to one’s word without excuse; this is not a tall order and it has far reaching consequences. Secondly, one can accept that a perfecting process is just that, a process that brings one to maturity within the realm where one does one’s growing; it has nothing to do with getting rid of “flaws;” it has to do with bringing things to completion. Thirdly, one can accept the growing pains, which will occur, as lessons which one has opportunity to learn from; all lessons have rewards; don’t cheapen the rewards by skipping or depreciating the lessons. Too many lessons are made so easy that the outcome is not even worth the effort. Lastly, one can accept that this process is an “on-going” one, which brings to light lessons which were not learned yet and lessons that show the need for further skill development (perfecting); the process is ongoing and it only has to be engaged in to reap the benefits.

    People reveal much by their actions and inactions. Should you want to know what people truly value, look at what they go out of their way to keep when they give their word. What word is not kept is of no value; what is kept has great value. It doesn’t get any simpler than this. It may take time to see this or it may take no time at all. Revelations are like this and they reveal much to all involved who depend on a given word.

    What do you truly value? Be assured, your true value is revealed by your actions or the lack of them. Just look at your word-action history and learn. As you do, should you want to create greater value in your life, commit to those actions that have value for you and make sure you “be true to your word” so that your creatures truly live -- and live well.

    Fraternally,

    Bro. Coach N

    Friday, March 20, 2009

    First Wave Shipped!

    Building Hiram - 03/20/09

    Hellow Fellow Travelers!

    It's been a hectic week. I was told by the printers that the books would be ready by Thursday or Friday. That was on Tuesday.

    I received a call on Wednesday that they were ready for pick up! I picked them up that day and spent the next two days getting them ready for shipping.

    Out they went today. I'm looking forward to hearing the results.

    Fraternally,

    Brother Coach N

    Tuesday, March 17, 2009

    The First Review is IN!

    Building Hiram - 03/17/09

    Hello Fellow Travelers!

    Building Hiram Book Review

    By K. Kidd

    "Building Hiram – Uncommon Catechism for Uncommon Masonic Education", a book of catechisms for the next generation Master Mason

    “The Word before you is what I wish I had been given when I was Raised.” – Dr. John S. Nagy, “Building Hiram” Volume I, page iv.
    This is how Bro. Dr. John S Nagy begins the Preface in the first of what is expected to be a number of volumes of his “Building Hiram” series, released in March. Filled with cipher, verse and images, "Building Hiram" strives to make the connections that many mentors in the Craft seem to lack. Freemasonry, Nagy explains, is not one disjointed teaching after another but is, instead, a fully interconnected science of much more, “In fact,” Nagy writes, “further Masonic Benefit occurs only by considering the interconnections between the symbols, the overlap of themes and the rhythm of the patterns continually played out from beginning to end.
    “The Word before you is a look at some of these interconnections. It presents an overlapping of themes and reveals many rich patterns that can Benefit all Master Masons should they venture forth and seek the Light.”
    That wasn’t how it seemed when he first was Raised, Nagy recalled. He was frustrated by “the lack of connections between the knowledge I was receiving from the Masons who were mentoring me left me without what I desired most – connections that pulled it all together so it made sense to me; I wanted more!”

    So he set off on his own personal exploration to find that interconnectedness and quickly discovered he wasn’t the only Brother looking for it. And he soon formulated questions to mark his exploration. He wrote:
    “As I explored, I asked simple questions like, “what do the Orders of Architecture have to do with my life now and in this society?”, “what is the significance of this Lost Word that Masons speak of?”, “what are the Master’s Wages that are referred to in Ritual?” and “why did the Lost Master’s Word require the Presence of the Three to be revealed?” I took these simple questions and thoroughly searched Masonic Rituals and Lectures to find any clue as to what might shed further Light upon their answers.

    “I came to find that one question led to another and another in a very interesting way. Ultimately, there cascaded into being a series of responses to each of my questions that created a clearly interconnected picture of the First Three Degrees. None of this would have been possible had I not had a burning desire for even more Light.”
    For Bro. Nagy, the journey is still far from over but what he’s found, combined with the knowledge others are looking for it, too, prompted him to release Volume 1 of Building Hiram in March. He starts with what any well schooled Master Mason will recognize as familiar ground. It takes on the form of a catechism. In this case, it’s a catechism about “catechism”.
    Catechism Primer

    cat.e.chism
    (k t -k z m) n.

    I: What is “Catechism?”
    R: A word whose first recorded use was in 1502,rooted in French by way of Latin and originating in Late Greek with the following meaning: to teach by word of mouth.
    I: What is its use?
    R: It is primarily oral instruction.
    I: What else?
    R: It is a book or manual of basic instruction giving a brief summary of the basic principles of a subject, usually by means of rote, formulaic statement or repetition in question and answer form.
    I: What’s more?
    R: A close questioning or examination, as of a political figure, student or a person wishing to show their proficiency of a topic or subject.
    I: What’s further?
    R: A body of Work expressing fundamental principles or beliefs, especially when accepted uncritically.
    I: How may it be so presented?
    R: As a series of searching Inquiries and Responses on any targeted subject of interest.
    I: What is its purpose?
    R: To share Light with those so interested.
    Nagy provides what he calls “Precursory Notes”, which amount to words or warning to the unschooled, the timid and the intruder. In particular, he cautions, “This writing makes no reference to any present day Ritual; there are no secrets revealed within this book nor does it point to anything that is not already known to all who seek Light. In other words, if you are looking to find secrets, Masonic or otherwise, there are none herein to find, whatsoever.”

    The true seeker that can make it past that soon finds a series of chapters and related catechisms on topics that include the Ashl*rs, the tools of stone builders, the orders of architecture, the staircase, the four (yes, four) ruffians, the ancient p*nalties, the 3-4-5 Triangle, the L*st W*rd and the Master’s Wages.

    I found all these catechisms insightful and thought provoking. I suppose my favorite is “The Staircase Unwound”, a chapter that explains the 3-5-7 of that degree “Nestled within these numbers are the echoes of years past when members of humankind made effort to raise each other above the common threads that held back humanity.” Nagy writes in that chapter.
    “The various explanations though pale in significance to any study a Mason may endeavor to partake of in their Journey toward Perfection. The Staircase is symbolic of life within and without. Traveling it to and from the Middle Chamber or Heart of the Temple, one is prepared for the mental and spiritual demands life offers. In years past, the Perfecting process was a valid investment and made for Master Masons beyond compare. Today the Raising of Masons not yet making the true and authentic Masonic Journey up and down the Staircase leaves it but a symbolic relic of the past – honored for its Wisdom but not well understood much less Traveled by the masses.”
    A portion of the catechism that follows this chapter reads:
    I: Are you a Mason?
    R: Indeed I am.
    I: How may I know that you are such?
    R: I have Traveled the Masonic Winding Staircase to and fro.
    I: What is the Masonic Staircase?
    R: A Staircase consisting of Three, Five and Seven steps.
    I: Where is this Staircase found?
    R: Within the Unified structure of the Temple of Solomon.
    I: Where else?
    R: Within the heart of every Master Mason.
    Bro. Nagy is not a new author. He's better known outside the Masonic community for his many self-help books, including Provoking Success – Uncommon Coaching for the Uncommon Soul" released two years ago and Emotional Awareness Made Easy - Uncommon Sense about Everyday Feelings" which was released this last year. These books, along with his coaching and technical advisory practice, form the basis of his "day job." But as a Brother in the Craft who also is a writer, it was only a matter of time before he turned his scrivening to Freemasonry.

    One such Masonic contribution is his penning of the chapter, “The Ashl*r Unfolded” in "Lifting the Veil - Esoteric Masonic Thought", published earlier this week by the book's compiler, Giovanni Lombado, and dedicated to the memory of the late Bro. Theron Dunn, to whom Bro. Nagy was very close.

    More information about the release of "Building Hiram" is available at Bro. Nagy's blog here: http://buildinghiram.blogspot.com/

    Sunday, March 15, 2009

    Gone to Press!

    Building Hiram - 03/15/09


    Hello Fellow Travelers!

    The week has been a stressful one with highs and lows. The book had to be pulled from the presses this last Tuesday dues to unforeseen needed adjustments.

    That being said, as of tomorrow morning, the presses will be running my book, “Building Hiram” and I’ll have them in hand soon -- and so will you!

    The moment is soon to arrived – the excitement is intense.

    I’m going to have to buy some cigars to hand out before this week is done.

    Fraternally,

    Coach N

    Sunday, March 8, 2009

    Lifting the Veil - New Book

    Building Hiram - 03/08/09


    Hello Fellow Travelers!

    Brother Giovanni Lombardo was a close friend to Brother Robert Theron Dunn who most Masons knew as Brother Theron. Years ago Gio, Theron and Bill McElligott planned to put together a book that would assist Masons world-wide in better understanding the esoteric aspects of Masonry.

    With the all to sudden passing of Brother Theron, the book's focus was not changed but the urgency of putting it together and publishing it was. Brother Gio diligently collected writings from a variety of Brothers throughout the world and compiled 24 "chapters" that would provide a strong basis for better understanding the basics of Esoteric Masonic Thought.

    I'm honored to say that I am one of the authors published within this book. Awhile ago I was asked by Brother Gio to write a chapter within it. He believes one of the most fundamental needs in Masonry is a firm understanding of what Stone is to a Builder and how Stone is moved from the ground into that building not made by hands. He asked me to write on this topic.

    I agreed to write this chapter and add it to the wide and diverse span of topics covered within the book.

    After producing this chapter and providing it to both Brothers Gio and Bill, it was agreed that my writing would be added to the soon to be published book (DUE OUT LATER THIS WEEK!).

    After reviewing it, I can say that the work Gio did in compiling this volume does justice to the memory of Brother Theron, whose whole life was dedicated toward sharing Light, and the original intent shared with Gio and Bill.

    If there is an interest on wanting to know more about and better understand the esoteric aspects of Masonry, this book will provide many hours of guidance and insight toward this end.

    Fraternally,

    Coach N

    Saturday, March 7, 2009

    Masonic Central Podcast

    Building Hiram - 03/07/09


    Hello Fellow Travelers!

    It looks like Building Hiram is now officially going to be the subject of a podcast. My good friend and Brother Jason Smith sent out an e-mail to Brother Greg Stewart of Masonic Central and recommended that he look into my book. I was contacted shortly afterward by Brother Greg letting me know that the podcast was available and to check it out. I told him that I would and I did.

    The results: I must say I was impressed. The line-up of past guests was awesome! This site features the crème de la crème of Masonic authors and there’s a long line-up of podcasts to listen to.

    So I took the cue from Brother Greg and I listened in. And I listened in some more. And I listened in still further. It didn’t take me very long to be utterly distracted by the great interviews being shared via his website.

    After about 5 hours of listening, I somehow remembered that my initial mission was to "check it out", not to "take up camp." I contacted Brother Greg again and confirmed I was interested. We set an interview for April 19 at 9pm ET.

    And then it hit me… I’m going to be interview on Masonic Central about my book!

    Suffice it to say that I am a wee bit excited.

    Fraternally,

    Coach N

    Friday, March 6, 2009

    Want a Quick Peak?

    Building Hiram - 03/06/09


    Hello Fellow Travelers!

    I’m proud to announce the printing button has been pressed. There’s no going back. The book is in the printing process as I write this. I just got back from the printers and the proof is perfect! The colors are as I imagined, the graphics are how I want them and even the feel of the book is just right. All I have to do now is wait… and a whole weekend of waiting…

    For those who are interested in having a preview. I have a back file for you that you can review. It’s not exactly as the book is printed but it will give a good idea as to what you can expect.

    Enjoy!

    Fraternally,

    Coach N

    Thursday, March 5, 2009

    Birthing Babies

    Building Hiram - 03/05/09


    Hello Fellow Travelers!

    Well, my book is in proofing and almost ready for printing. This means that I get to travel to the book printers once again (30 miles one way) to check out how they rendered my book this time. I’m filled with much excitement, some anxiety and many questions. Did it come out the way that I imagined it? Did something show up on the final proof that didn’t show up on my CRT screen? Was the right file printed this time? So many questions and only this trip to the printer will answer them.

    In the past, books that I’ve published usually required several proofs. There was always some error or imperfection that crept into the process – that’s the reason for a hard-copy proof. For instance, did you know that graphics using JPG compression will create annoying alias patterns in PDF file proofs rendered out of MS Word? Yup! If you said, "no, I didn’t know this," neither did I!

    Wouldn’t you know that I used all JPG images in my most recent book! I tried to get a decent proof but this problem kept on coming up.

    The solution was simple though. It required going back through all 70+ images and rendering them as BMP images and then reinserting them into the book's manuscript. It sounds like a simple swap job, until you realize that they all have to be reformatted. That involves resizing, grayscale selection and resetting the wrap feature that best fits the page. Add to this the need for critical word placement on some of the pages and it means another Friday night through Sunday evening rework of the book.

    Yup, you guessed it. That’s how I spent this last weekend. The last proof of the book showed up with all the same alias issues. So, it was “mouse-click and keyboard-tapping" time on the computer. But! The end in mind is totally worth it and I refuse to allow the demands of time to corrupt the integrity of my vision. The book must conform to the Builder’s plans!

    Looking back, I wish I learned this lesson the last time I published but the BMP/JPG issue was not so clear cut that go ’round. Either that or the printing process last time was more forgiving hence the next lesson presented itself this time. Not to let a good lesson go unlearned though, I’ve written some notes to remind me to avoid using JPG files at all cost while Building my next book. If the lesson was learned, I’ll have only one proof to review next time.

    So is it perfect yet? I don’t know. The proof tomorrow will show if my labor is complete.

    Stay tuned!

    Fraternally,

    Coach N

    Wednesday, March 4, 2009

    Are Illiterates Raising Illiterates?

    Building Hiram - 03/04/09


    Hello Fellow Travelers!

    If you’re old to the Education offered by Lodges, you know that, for the most part, “average formal Grand Lodge backed” Masonic Education programs exist today as:

    1. Memorizing Degree Catechism
    2. Learning Ritual and floor work
    3. Reviewing the Digest of Law and taking exams based on it
    4. Reading Pamphlets
    5. Perusing Degree Handbooks
    6. Following Officer Manuals
    If you’re more fortunate than most, you may even have some Brothers show up at Lodge once in a while to provide some interesting tidbits on Freemasonic history.

    These are all important to some degree and they collectively form a stable foundation to continue the necessary support that Freemasonry requires to survive. What is missing though is the kind of education that many Brothers are starving for and which Properly Raises them toward levels that Freemasonry was intended to have.

    This is a bold statement and one that requires some explanation so let me ask the obvious question, “What are they starving for?” They starve for the truly important aspect of Masonic Education most missing today: how Masonry applies to their lives overall. Without this firm understanding as to how Masonry manifests in our lives, what it means and how it helps us Build better lives, the applicable Masonic lessons are lost, leaving Brothers unfulfilled and dissatisfied.

    The sad part of this situation is that this is caused by self-sabotage. Brothers are held back because they have falsely labeled themselves for years. What’s needed to move forward is an earnest effort to dismiss this notion that members are merely “Speculative Masons.” This is blatantly misleading.

    Let me place something firmly before you to consider: All Brothers who use Masonry to help themselves Build Better lives are Operative Masons;” Masons today do work in and on Stone; a "Living Stone"!  Unfortunately, it’s not recognized as (Working upon) Stone though, and that is part of the problem. Most Members don’t understand the Symbols before them! Every Working Tool mentioned in Freemasonic Ritual has Authentic Application in the real world.

    What is missing is a Foundational understanding as to the application of these tools toward our Living Stones in their lives today. They don’t see this because the very Symbols that are shared within Ritual do not speak to them today as they did in years past. In this respect, Freemasons being Raised today are Symbolically illiterate. They do not have a sufficient Symbolic Education to be Raised Properly; which leads me back to the statement I wrote earlier, most Freemasons are not Properly Raised.

    Let me run a few frank statements past you to consider further.
    Masonry Builds Builders. Sound Building is based on the ability to properly Understand and Work with Symbols. The basis of Symbolic Education is stated within Freemasonic Ritual. The final Steps Masons must take to prepare themselves for being Properly Raised are alluded to in the FC lecture. The first three of the final Steps are in preparation for understanding and using Symbols as Words; the last four are in preparation for understanding and using Symbols as Numbers. These last Seven Steps are important because without a firm Understanding of Symbols, Freemasons metaphorically die of hunger in a grocery store jam-packed with food for lack of an ability to access that which is immediately before them.
    These last seven Steps are Symbolic in Masonry and are known as the Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences. They were initially used as preparation for serious study in Philosophy and Theology. Without their Foundation, the training in Symbols, one could not properly deal with Symbols, also known in some circles as “the Word” or “the Logos.” Members may go through the motions of being Raised, but until they are capable of Raising their level of understanding above the actual words and numbers, they are Symbolically Illiterate, hence they’re unable to read what is before them.

    In this respect, Freemasonry has failed as an organization.

    As truly successful as Freemasonry is in preserving its “food locker of symbols,” its Members starve and loose interest because they lack access keys to this locker. The saddening aspect of this is that few Brothers understand this; fewer still are willing to work toward changing this. In general, Members as a whole look at increasing numbers, retention of members and ability to “repeat back without firm understanding” as key indicators of our success. They will never be indicators of success – ever!

    The challenges that the Society is faced with are based in educating its members in Symbolic Understanding and Use; the problems are based in its Educators not focusing on this; the troubles that are focused upon today are a symptom of the Society not meeting the challenge before it; they are not the cause but every Member has to live with them until the Society changes its focus.

    People support what they can “make sense of” and “use” in their lives.

    What’s more, when others outside the organization see how well things are working for its Members, it will attract others in kind. Ironically, if it sticks with the basics and educates its Members in Symbolic understanding and application, it’ll attract far more members than it could ever imagine.

    Let’s make a unified effort to give our Brothers the keys to the Masonic locker. All that is required is taking seven simple Steps.

    Fraternally, Coach N

    Tuesday, March 3, 2009

    Building Hiram Released Soon

    Building Hiram – 03/03/09


    Hello Fellow Travelers!

    I’ve never written a web-log before so this is a new experience for me. It feels strange to be putting my thoughts down for the world to read but when I consider that this is only one more direction that my writing is taking, I’m not a stranger to it at all.

    For those of you who do not know me, I’m John Nagy and my professional background can be found at my website if you want to know it.

    My Masonic background is a bit shorter in length. I was Raised only a few years ago, back in early 2002. I entered the line as a JW soon afterward, stepped out of line after that year and into the position of Lodge Musician when our existing officer passed on to our Grand Lodge in Heaven; I’ve been a Lodge Musician for several years now. I also provide Masonic Education to Lodges who will dare have me come and speak. And this last line is where this blog comes into play.

    From the time that I was first introduced to Masonry, I had a sincere interest in knowing more. So much so that after reading many books recommended by a close neighbor, who was a Mason, I decided to become one myself. Very shortly after I was initiated I found that I was frustrated by the disconnected information that I received during my learning to do catechism. I wanted to know what different things meant and how they were connected to other things mentioned. I didn’t get the answers then and that trend continued throughout my experience way past being Raised.

    I don’t fault the men who were mentoring me though. I’m sure that they received the same responses they gave to me when I asked. I sensed though that they were as frustrated deep down inside as I was initially. They didn’t get the answers then just as I didn’t when I asked. What more could they do? It was what it was.

    As a result of this reality, I started venturing out into “the wild” to find out what I could on my own. I started reading and making notes as to what I would find. I eventually gathered enough connected material that it made it possible to write a presentation for other Brothers as to what I had discovered. I did this with several topics, each of which was driven by those initial questions I had as a newly initiated Mason.

    After several years of researching interesting topics to present at Lodges, I’d accumulated many written Masonic papers. The last few years these papers have taken a distinct shape. The style that I’ve adopted is one of catechism. I’ve found that writing and presenting papers in the form of catechism does several things.

    They tend to:

    • write themselves (which I like a lot);
    • entertain, surprise and enlighten;
    • create a distinct line of thought that opens us up to seeking.
    With these catechisms being received well, I took time to arrange them into a book so that I could share them with others more easily. The book creation was an interesting experience in itself. I’ve created books before but this one posed some interesting challenges that were above and beyond the norm.

    The first challenge was the usual challenge Masonic writers find themselves in when putting pen to paper in regards to anything Masonic. Masonic writers must always make sure that anything that they write does not violate their Obligation or the Law of their Jurisdiction. This specific challenge had me continually scrutinizing what I wrote to assure that I was honoring both.

    The second challenge was the layout of the book. Several things came into play as I considered its makeup. I first wanted to make the book friendly toward Masons. The size had to be similar to many of the pocket size Ritual books and Monitors already available. The print had to be readable to Masons who would take this book and use it as Lodge education. Interestingly enough I discovered the ten point Tahoma font is almost equivalent to the twelve point Times New Roman font, prints more words per page and is easier to read – imagine that! Lastly, the information within it had to be presented so that it flowed as it was read, specifically when read out load in Lodge. All of these things were taken in consideration for I knew that the ultimate end users would want to have a comfortable feel in its use.

    The next challenge was coming up with a title that shared the intention of what these writings were all about. I had a few ideas come up but in the end the title had to communicate what I was trying to do. Ultimately I created the title that communicated this well and “Building Hiram – Uncommon Catechism for Uncommon Masonic Education” was almost born.

    The book is due out by mid-March and I’m now looking at creating Volume Two after a little rest. I’ve already written a bit of an intro and that will be posted here soon. There were many topics that I didn’t fit into this current book that are just as important subject matters of Masonic focus as the ones in Volume One.

    With all this shared, I’m posting this initial overview to let you know that I’ll share my thoughts as I can and look forward to any feedback you may have to share on how the book was received along with any ideas on other chapters that can be written into the future.

    Currently I have interest in writing chapters on:
    1. Circumambulations
    2. Hiram Abiff
    3. The Monitorial Symbols
    4. Emulation vs. American Rite
    5. The Mosaic
    6. The Great lights
    7. The Lesser Lights
    8. Scriptural References in Ritual>
    9. The significance of the number two in Ritual
    10. On What is Truly Raised
    These, or something similar, will be in Volume Two. I once again need twelve chapter topics total, so this list will be growing and possibly morphing.

    I'd like them to complement the list found within Volume One.

    Fraternally,

    Coach N