Building Athens Book Review
By K. Kidd
Bro John Nagy, so quick on the heels of his "Building Boaz" and "Building Hiram", recently released a third volume of Masonic catechism, "Building Athens". In this one, well aligned with the Fellow Craft Degree, we get a greater sense of what Bro Nagy means by "Building".
This is far more than the usual Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences students of Masonry think about in the Second Degree. In “Building Athens”, Nagy provides 12 in depth and thought provoking catechisms that call to mind the purpose of education in this degree.
Like the first two volumes, "Building Athens" invites us to ask questions and answer them. As in both modern and not so modern Masonic catechisms, Nagy invites the inquisitor and respondent to think about what they utter or internally contemplate. Here is but one such exchange which, interestingly, has more statements than questions. Note his use of capitalization:
In this passage, I’m much taken with the only two questions, “What’s more” and “What’s further”. The respondent is so invited to define “more” and “further”, something many never approach.
I: You have Claimed to be a Fellow Craft Mason.
R: Yes, I have.
I: Present your Argument and prove your Claim.
R: My Brothers are Fellow Craft Masons; I was Passed in a duly convened Fellow Craft Lodge and my Brother Masons recognize me as a Fellow Craft Mason; therefore, I am what I Claim to be, a Fellow Craft Mason.
I: What’s more?
R: Through study, I have developed the ability to discern Truth from fallacy by cultivating and employing specific Shibboleths to do so.
I: What’s further?
R: Understanding, cultivating and employing Logical Shibboleths are signs of Fellow Craft Mastery.
Bro Nagy also gives us a few more glimpses into his own building, thru his own formative experiences. My favorite in Building Athens is on page 33, where Bro Nagy reminds us “it all begins with a Word.”
“Pablo Picasso created a painting called ‘Guernica’ in 1937. Forty-one years later, a copy of it made its way into a Liberal Arts class with me as one of the students.
“The teacher presented it as a focus of an exercise that day. The task was for us to evaluate it and share our thoughts. Not knowing anything about the painting, the time it was created or the culture that influenced it, I was utterly bored with it. It had no meaning to me whatsoever.
“After we stared at it for a few minutes, the teacher asked the class members to share their thoughts. Without much variation, I learned that my fellow students had similar reactions to this picture.
“The teacher smiled and proceeded to let the class know who painted it, the reason for its creation, the period and the background of the culture that influenced it. He then pointed to specific items within the picture and shared what each was communicating. As he continued his lesson, I learned how seemingly simple pictures could represent profound and deeply moving ideas, notions, concepts, points and realities.
“In those moments, my world changed. I went from a disinterested blind man to an engaged, sighted soul.”
Readers are likely to find more than a few such moments in “Building Athens”. I believe this book would be an excellent addition to the too often sparse Lodge Fellow Craft study material and would make an excellent gift for a newly Passed Mason.
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