Friday, April 1, 2016

BUILDING ATHENS: A Book Review By Wor. Bro. Frederic L. Milliken


Building AthensCoach Nagy has written a most important book for the Fellow Craft.

It is about the winding staircase with emphasis on the 7 Liberal Arts and Sciences. In case you have forgotten (heaven forbid), the 7 Liberal Arts and Sciences are Grammar, Rhetoric, Logic, Arithmetic, Geometry, Music and Astronomy.

...when Nagy first envisioned this book it was going to be more of an explanation of the rich symbolism in the Second Degree but the end result took a turn when reality dawned on the Coach.

First, in observing other Masonic writers he noted how some produced the unfolding of layers of symbolism.
“Through this insight, I realized that these Brothers had constructed writings that hid things in plain view through Symbolic Layering. They Masterfully conveyed Light without hiding it. They shared it knowing that Brothers would see Light that profanes couldn’t. Trained Brothers knew what was conveyed.”

Symbolic Layering is one fascinating aspect of this book and one which the reader must discover on his or her own. That led Nagy to his conclusion that Trained Minds are so important to understanding Symbolic Layering and the meaning of Masonry.
“I quickly realized that a Mason’s mind must be first ‘readied’ to receive such information before he can benefit from it. I also realized that no matter how I might go about my initial focus, without a ‘readied mind’, my actions would be equivalent to discussing colors with a blind person. No such sharing would have relatable significance.”
But how is this done? How are Freemasons readied to receive this information?
“Fellow Craft Masons that diligently invest in the education pointed toward by Ritual physically reshape their ‘Ashlars’, a.k.a. ‘brains’, toward what is required by the Builder. They furthermore reinforce natural affinities that their brains already have and cultivate interconnections that change how reality is experienced. This training transforms each mind’s ability to sort, uncover, discriminate, differentiate, distinguish, decide, detect, project, create, evaluate and a host of other mental talents that would otherwise lay dormant or poorly used if not otherwise nurtured.”
Once again Nagy emphasizes Trained Minds in Trained Masons.
“Information challenged individuals, unable to deal effectively with information overload, become lost within information. Trained Masons know what is pertinent. They furthermore know how to see through illusions offered up as a fact to see Truths hidden within and fallacies veiled in truth.”
So in Catechism form Coach Nagy sets out to retrain our minds in order that we may separate the chaff from the wheat, see the layering of symbolism and discover the meanings of Masonry and its application to our daily lives.

Nagy talks about the great Greek philosophers and their contribution to symbolic thought and the 7 Liberal Arts and Sciences.

In regards to Plato, Nagy tells us that, “Plato was influenced by Socrates, along with Pythagoras, Aristophanes, Protagoras, Homer, Hesiod, Parmenides. Aesop, Heraditus, and Orphism”

As we start into the specifics Nagy tells us, “Masonry is a training ground for Symbolic understanding. Without an intimate knowledge of Symbols, Masons become malnourished by the inability to absorb what is presented.”

Nagy talks a lot in the book about Shibboleths which he defines as “a word, phrase, motto, slogan, or saying used by adherents of a party, group, sect, organization, or belief, also a widely held belief, truism or platitude which can be a linguistic tool that allows for identification of a specific group based upon pronunciation of specific words.”

The subsequent chapters of the book take each of the 7 Liberal Arts and Sciences in detail.

...Where your mind really gets challenged is in the catechism of each chapter. There is where the general becomes the specific; there is where the learning takes place; there is where the mind is expanded; there is where you must commit much time and energy.

Once you have completed this expansion of the mind an overview of the big picture illustrates the importance of such study. Nagy tells us:
“To look deeply without toward what constitutes the makeup of your world is to put forth an effort to see and seed the possibility of knowing the very essence of Creation. Of all the actions that Masons can take, except for ‘sincere and searching self-reflection’, this action has the deepest impact. It permeates everything thereafter done.”
Finally, we are told:
“Next to the Entered Apprentice Degree, no more demanding Work in all of Masonry can ever match what is ordered upon Masons within the Fellow Craft Degree. It’s most unfortunate that the Work specified as important to Masons within the Fellow Craft ritual is ‘skipped over’ by far too many Masons as they pursue the title of that ‘next’ degree. Mentoring Master Masons would do well in tempering the enthusiasm of those Fellow Crafts desiring the next level, as well as their own, especially if they have yet to earn the title.”
Leaping over this specific Work has damaging consequences for the Mason, the Brothers who have to deal with that Mason, the Fraternity as a whole and future Masons who Enter and expect proper guidance from Brothers.
Building Athens is not just an information book but a challenge. I consider myself reasonably well informed, no Rhodes scholar mind you, but time and time again I felt a need to consult further research on some of the points Coach Nagy was making and some of the references he alluded to. This is the kind of book you might want to read twice. Once your mind has been expanded it makes much more sense the second time around and you will “get it” finally.

The only question left: ARE YOU READY TO RETRAIN YOUR BRAIN?



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