Building Hiram Book Review #1
written by James T. Tresner II, Book Review Editor
Scottish Rite Journal
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 (not always easy to find, I’d suggest a Google search for “Building Hiram” ).
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.
Building Hiram Book Review #2By 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”.
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
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/
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