Thursday, September 30, 2010

Masonic Influence on Brain Transformation

Building Athens - 09/30/2010

Hello Fellow Travelers!

Below is an article that appears in the October 2010 edition of "Further Light," a Masonic Education Magazine published by the Florida Lodge of Research, of which I am a Lifetime Member and contributing author. 


Fraternally and Sincerely,

Bro. Coach N


Masonic Influence on Brain Transformation

Not many Masons know that the training of Entered Apprentices and Fellow Crafts is designed to transform their brains. Yeah, I know this might sound “pretty scary” but it’s true. What’s even scarier though is that I was a Masons who didn’t know this up until this year. What changed my understanding of this was asking a simple question. As a result on my asking this question, seeking an answer and knocking on whatever door I could find, a flood of information was opened up to me that bordered upon overwhelm.

Admittedly, it was an innocent enough question; one of many that seem to pop into my head from time to time when I’m involved in Masonic adventures. The focus of my adventure this time was the Fellow Craft degree. More specifically, the last Seven Steps of the Winding Staircase talked about in the Fellow Craft Lecture.

My question was simple: What does studying these seven topics do to the brains of people studying them? I had no idea where this question would lead me, but there was one thing for sure, I was ready, willing and able to go to any length to know the answer.

The Quest
Soon after I asked it, the question led me toward some information regarding brain function(1). It seems that some time over the last century, brain neuroscientists had mapped the function of the brain, specifically, the cerebral cortex. They discovered some very interesting aspects that fit very nicely into affirming what Masons have focused upon for some time. It appears that the functions associated with the lobes of the cerebral cortex are affected by studying the Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences. Let me explain.

Our brains(2) are created with natural affinities. Being natural, these affinities are already wired into our being. This means that our brains naturally will do what they have affinities toward. The problem though with those natural affinities is that what may come natural does not always get nurtured to maximize its potentials.

This is where specific study comes into play. By studying targeted subjects such as those comprising the Trivium and Quadrivium, precise areas of the brain are exposed to patterns that enhance the brain’s natural abilities in that region. Simply put, exposure to Light Orders the Chaos of that area.

Trivial Brain Function
Let me share an example of this. The back of the brain known as the Occipital Lobe is wired for sight. In that wiring are tendencies to recognize objects such as “horizontals, verticals and diagonals.” When this region is exposed to specific patterns, it “learns” to recognize these patterns and even associates them with what they mean.

When those who are instructed properly are exposed to visual numbers and letters, this region of their brain eventually imprints upon the shapes of those visual patterns and associates these patterns with numbers and letters. Of course, this recognition also works in conjunction with the sound of such letters and numbers, along with the words that they spell out and language memory.

The latter part of the brain is associated with the left Temporal lobe and this associated region stretches from the area from just in front of the ear, all the way back past the interface of that lobe and through to the left area of the Occipital lobe and the lower portion of the left side of the Parietal lobe. This whole region is associated with Grammar. When exposed to Grammatical training, the natural affinity of this brain region Orders itself to recognize Lexicon and the Rules that govern that Lexicon – Grammar!

Additionally, if we examine how exposure to Logic affects brain Ordering, we would find that the upper part of the Frontal lobe is affected. Logic training exposes this region to the Logical patterns which Order it toward recognizing when proper Logic occurs and when what is presented is obviously faulty or flawed.

Finally, training that exposes the brain to Rhetoric shows that this specific training accesses, integrates and further Orders these just mentioned regions, most all of which are left Brain activities. Furthermore, this activity includes the lower parts of the Frontal lobes along with the front parts of the Temporal lobes; some of which are right brain activities.

You might now ask yourself what these just mentioned regions have to do with Rhetoric and you’d be right in doing so. It is not enough to say that it accesses, integrates and further Orders these regions. One should know the basis of such claims. Let’s connect the dots.

Integrating the Entered Apprentice Work
The lower parts of the Frontal lobes are associated with we call “morality.” Their function controls whether we say and do or not say or do. This is but one of two areas that Rhetoric study access and helps integrate. The other areas are the two front parts of the Temporal lobes. These are the emotional memory areas of the brain. These, together with the lower portion of the Frontal lobes, control our morality.

Of course, study of the Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences only reinforces the functions of these just mentioned moral influence areas. These areas should have already been Ordered through the Work of the Entered Apprentice prior to being Passed.

You may quickly ask: What Entered Apprentice Work Orders the morality areas? And the answer may surprise you: All of it! Let’s review it quickly.

The recognition and divesting of Vices and Superfluities frees the Entered Apprentice from unnecessary and harmful Burdens. In conjunction with this divestiture, Strengthening takes place in the form of establishment of Virtue within the daily activities and choices of the Entered Apprentice. This takes discipline and such activities are continually recognized and affirmed by Fellow Crafts and above before Entered Apprentices are Passed. Should such Work not be completed, the Ordering of these area will not be completed either and the Brain of the Mason shall be Burdened and weaker than it should be while progressing through higher degrees. Such a condition is best exemplified by the Hebrew word “sibolet”, which means “burden.(3)”

Quadrivium Work
The follow up Fellow Craft studies that Order mostly the right side of their brains are Arithmetic, Geometry, Music and Astronomy. Arithmetic Orders the Right side of the Occipital lobe in conjunction with the back part of the Parietal lobes. It structures our understanding and recognition of numeric lexicon and the proper use of operators in dealing with them. Geometry Orders the back part of the Parietal lobe and Right Temporal lobes. It structures our understanding and recognition of numbers as they relate to space. Music Orders the right Temporal lobe. It structures our understanding and recognition of numbers as they relate to time.

Something that intrigued me was how the study of Astronomy acts like a capstone to all this study. The answer that was revealed was amazing. Astronomy integrates the left and right brain functions dealing with time and space and the manner to which we use language to convey our understanding of time and space discoveries. In doing this, Astronomy further Orders, accesses and integrates all lobes mentioned throughout this writing.

Aside from all the interesting and wonderful things that occur to the brain to transform it so that its natural affinities are honed to a sharp edge, there is an underlying reason such abilities are desired by Masons. If you examine history, you will find that the study of the Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences was required as preparation for higher learning targeted at Scholasticism – reconciling Theology and Philosophy. A person would not dare enter into such serious study without having a firm foundation in these Liberal Arts and Sciences. Such lacking would inevitably lead to problematic evaluation, translation, interpretation and conclusions. That understanding continues today. The primary reason for such specific Liberal Arts and Sciences study remains the same – to prepare for further, more serious study of Theology and Philosophy(4). Masons should keep this in mind should they attempt to dismiss the relevance of such studies.

Let me provide an example of how this works.

The Jewish observance of Passover occurs upon the first full moon after the Spring Equinox. Sacred Lore is interpreted by some to reveal that the name “Passover” comes from the belief that the Lord “passed over” houses whose doorposts and lintels were sprinkled with the blood of a specific type of lamb. Study of the events and the timing of the celebration reveal many interesting aspects of the celebration that are not so obvious to those who do not have Liberal Arts and Sciences training.

The first fact of interest lay in the timing of the event. The Passover celebration always starts when the first full moon after the spring equinox. This is the 14th day of Nisan which begins on the night of a full moon after the vernal equinox.

In ancient times though, the start of spring was not always astronomically guided. There were more practical signs that needed to be considered. The tradition in ancient Israel held that the first day of Nisan would not start until the barley is ripe, being the test for the onset of spring.(5) Since at least the 12th century, knowledge of Astronomy and mathematics reveal that the spring equinox is the point in which the sun position above the rotating earth provides an equal amount of light during the day with the darkness in the night. Any day soon after this moment could be considered a day that showed the sun had “passed over” this equality point of day and night length. Knowing this, the question still remains as to why this observance comes during the first full moon and not immediately after that tipping point.

Upon further examination of the cultural records of the time it become clear that the reference to the lamb is also quite revealing. At the time this celebration was immortalized in the practice of the Jewish people, many tended flocks of animals as a matter of daily activity. Part of that activity was to make sure that these flocks were both fed and kept secure. When the season changed from winter to spring, the passing over of the sun was a sign to those tending their flocks that the feeding grounds to the North were about to be producing food. This meant that their flocks would have to be moved toward these pasture lands so they could feed on the new growth.

These moves were problematic if they were not planned for and executed properly. Two conditions that had to be considered deserve some reflection. The first condition was that all newborn animals would slow the flock’s progress to an unacceptable pace; this placed an unnecessary sibolet upon the entire flock. The second condition was that darkness created additional dangers involving terrain and predators. To move flocks during the darkened hours of night would place them in danger, especially if that movement were done under star light alone.

To minimize the possibility of newborns within the flock slowing them down, sacrifices would occur. This meant “spilling” blood. Such sacrifices were seen as necessary and were accepted without question to assure the safety of these flocks. Not doing so jeopardized the flock’s very survival.

To minimize nighttime threats, flocks were moved during those times when the moon’s brightest light lit the skies. This occurred on a regular bases and all that was required was a bit of Astronomical know-how to get the timing correct. Since the first full moon after the spring equinox proved the perfect time to move the flocks to the North, this became the day in which that activity occurred year after year.

As you can imagine, most people within the Jewish faith do not tend flocks any longer. There is no need to make journeys from one pasture to another and not minimize travel time by sacrificing those creatures who would slow that transit. It is clear though that the memory of such activities have been dutifully and faithfully carried forth year after year as sacred lore in honor of their ancestor’s diligent activities.

Masonry’s Beacon
To participate in serious Theological and Philosophical studies, one must have the capacity to decode the records of the past. Specific study provides a firm foundation for cultivating this capacity. Without such firm foundation, assumption about these records might lead one to conclude falsely what these records and events reveal.

It’s truly a marvel how specific studies transform the brain and bring Order to chaos. Masons might want to assure that those Masons who come up through the degrees do the Work that Ritual points to, otherwise men are Raised into positions that they are not properly prepared for.

About this submission: This article is based upon the research behind the book “Building Athens – Uncommon Catechism for Uncommon Masonic Education - Volume 3” by Dr. John S. Nagy. The book was published in May 2010. (

About the Author: Dr. John S. Nagy is a Master Mason, a perpetual member of Tampa Bay Lodge No. 252 in Tampa Bay Florida and a Life Member of the Florida Lodge of Research. He is the Lodge Musician for both Lodges and occasional Masonic Education provider.


2 All reference contained herein are those of right-brained individuals. Left-brained maps are mirror images of those.
3 Ephraimites – The Encyclopedia of Freemasonry - Mackey
4 Trivium and Quadrivium - Wikipedia
5 The barley had to be "eared out" (ripe) in order to have a wave-sheaf offering of the first fruits according to the Law. Jones, Stephen (1996). Secrets of Time. This also presupposes that the cycle is based on the northern hemisphere seasons.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Iowa Mason Expores Ashlars

Building Elsewhere - 09/28/2010

Hello Fellow Travelers!

I came across a series of interesting posts on the topic of Ashlars by Brother Mike from Iowa that I found very interesting. You can find them here:
Symbolism of the Ashlars: Standard Interpretation
Albert Pike and Ashlar Symbolism
Bowling Alone?
The Simplistic View
Keep up the grand rendering Brother Mike. Your Work is invaluable and appreciated!

Faternally & Sincerely,

Brother Coach N

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Building Books Makes Scottish Rite Journal - ONCE AGAIN!

Building Series - 9/12/2010

Hello Fellow Travelers!

I receive quite a suprise today. After asking a recent book purchaser how he heard about my books, he replied:

I'm exploring freemasonry and James Tresner recommended your first
two books in his book reviews on the Scottish Rite Journal website.

I felt oddly confused reading this as I recall that Brother James Tresner had only written one review in the Scottish Rite Journal last year and that was on "Building Hiram" and not on my second book "Building Boaz."

Being curious, I did a quick search on the web and found that Brother Tresner had indeed written another review, made generous comment on both my books and it was in the most recent SRJ book review for the Oct. 2010 edition. He wrote the following:

General Masonic Education

Building Hiram: Uncommon Catechism for Uncommon Masonic Education and Building Boaz: Uncommon Catechism for Uncommon Masonic Education, Volume 2 by Dr. John S. Nagy ( —
  1. I find both these books especially helpful in Masonic education. [italics added]
  2. Written in a Q & A format, these little books explore many of the ideas of the Blue Lodge Degrees.
  3. They provide a lot of insight and more or less “trick” you into thinking more deeply about the symbols and structures of Freemasonry.
  4. You can find them on the Internet.
I've already sent a quick "thankyou" note to Brother Tresner for assisting our Brothers in finding and obtaining Further Light.

For those of you who have come to this link to find out more, you can find these books at the following links:


Brother Coach N

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Tolerance Revisited

Building in General - 09/04/2010

Hello Fellow Travelers!

I’m posting something here that may go against the accepted grain of some Mason’s entrenched beliefs.
Tolerance is no more a virtue than Intolerance is a vice. Moreover, the opposite is true, too. Neither are a vice nor virtue in and of themselves.
Let me elaborate just a bit: By their nature, Virtues strengthen and support and Vices weaken and burden. Neither Tolerance nor Intolerance does either of these.

Therefore, you may query as to what “Tolerance” is and you would ask for good reason. So much of what Masons hear about it is lauded over the purpose it exists and to the point where it is truly unreasonably applied.

To hear Masons speak of Tolerance, one might assume that there are only two possibilities:

Intolerance --- Tolerance

...where “Tolerance” is an expected mode of behavior, specifically toward the religious beliefs of others and any “Intolerance” should not be “Tolerated.”

However, we all know that there are many more possibilities under the heavens than these two behavioral choices. Let me expand upon this further.

Tolerance is one of four words used to denote expressions or behaviors that occur when people are faced with something in which they must deal.

That group of four expressions covers a continuum that stretches from rejection through to acceptance. When adding resistance and tolerance to that continuum, we have four behaviors that people use to deal with situations.

Let me say this again: Tolerance is only a small part of a continuum of behavior based upon differing response/reaction choices. In a rudimentary continuum, Rejection, Resistance and Acceptance flank Tolerance.

This continuum appears like this:
Rejection --- Resistance --- Tolerance --- Acceptance

Which could be viewed as an expanded version of this:
Intolerance --- Tolerance

However, the later version of these last two isn’t the former version of the four, since “Intolerance” doesn’t capture the subtleties of “rejection or resistance” and “Tolerance” doesn’t capture the subtleties of “Acceptance.”

What was previously stated about Tolerance and Intolerance applies here too. Each one of these four expressions is not a virtue or vice either. They are simple behavioral choices that one may use in responses/reactions to life, and this includes those behaviors toward people with which one shares one’s life.

These four should also not be confused with Attitude, which in and of itself consists of seven key attributes*, of which only one is manifested by the aforementioned behaviors.

What though can be said of the virtues that support one’s choices to respond with any one of these four? My observations tell me that the Four Cardinal and Three Theological Virtues help guide one's choice to either reject, resist, tolerate and accept.
  1. These Seven virtues may call a person to reject what is before them when it is wrong for all involved. Don’t these Virtues help to discern this?
  2. They may as well call that same person to resist something forced upon him that is not right even if it is right for someone else. And, perhaps rightfully so!
  3. Yet, if what is right for one is not right for another and it is not being forced upon the person whom it is not right for, these virtues may lead someone to express tolerance. Would this be considered relative?
  4. Acceptance may unfold when what is at play is right for all involved and these virtues support this. Yet, without a firm foundation in the Seven virtues, could some things be accepted wrongfully?
These conditions outlined above are relative to whom is involved and the values that each involved hold as sacred for themselves and others. “Relative” because it is rare that any two people hold the same values much less agree upon how these values should be honored. The key though lay not in the choice of each of these four options…
Rejection --- Resistance --- Tolerance --- Acceptance
…but in how each is expressed. Each response/reaction is appropriate under the right conditions and inappropriate under the wrong conditions. Additionally, that key may never be inserted into the locks th at hold people apart because agreements upon honorable behavior are as varied as the faces of humanity.

Knowing this, I chose to accept that there will be disagreement and, when this occurs, I shall simply be open to better understand what others accept as honorable behavior or not. Once I think I understand, I may make effort to come to some amicable agreement, most of the time. Of course, I reserve the right to hold back on this if I believe it will work in everyone’s best interest when we don’t come to an amicable agreement. Sometimes this is appropriate too.

At one time, I defined “Tolerance” as the ability to withstand any amount of irritation, agitation or violation, perceived real or not, without responding or reacting in a devaluing or negative way toward the perceived source of that irritation, agitation or violation.

I should have expanded that definition to include all four possibilities and temper them with the Seven Virtues specified in the EA Ritual.
  1. “Rejection” and “Resistance” are saying “no” and doing so in a valuing, honorable and respectful way toward all those involved.
  2. “Tolerance” and “Acceptance” are saying “yes” and doing so in a valuing, honorable and respectful way toward all those involved.
People, Masons included, seem to focus upon the one behavior, Tolerance, though. It’s as if it is the sole option in this world of humans. It is not. It is but one of at least four that we as Masons should keep in mind as we navigate the minefield that is created by much misconception. This is where education helps -- more specifically "Masonic Education."

Throughout Masonic Education, “discrimination” is something that is a valuable and appreciated skill. Much of the first two Blue Lodge Degrees makes effort to cultivate this skill within Masons. As with all skill development, it is just as important to know when to apply it and when not to apply it. This too is something that is cultivated within the first degree of Blue Lodge Masonry.

So, when you see Masons who have done the Work that Ritual points to, you most likely see the entire continuum of behavior ranging from rejection through to acceptance played out before you in very righteous ways, all based upon their finely cultivated ability to discriminate appropriately depending upon the situation before them.

In addition, if you perceive that these same Brothers push the envelop of unacceptability in some situations where other Brothers are involved, you can almost guarantee that they’re simply messing with their heads and for all the right reasons.

I suggest that you play along. You may very well learn something new and valuable about yourself and your Brothers.


Brother Coach N

(Source: Pages 140-146; Building Cement - Uncommonly Concrete Masonic Education)

* Values, Intents, Perceptions, Beliefs, Emotions, Actions (behaviors) and Results


I'm proud to say that this article eventually became an appendix with my book, Building Cement.