Building Hiram – Uncommon Catechism for Uncommon Masonic Education
by Br. John Nagy.
Uncommon is a good word to describe this book as its approach to Masonic education is anything but what most would consider common. Not the visual bullet point summary or elaborated description of a several thousand-year-old temple, Building Hiram… is definitely not your run of the mill Masonic lecture.
I suppose I should qualify that statement. Often, what seems to be produced with Masonic education in mind is a rehash of the elements of the degrees: the tools, the positions, and the knocks. In their own way, they are valuable, but often are conveyed in unexciting and repetitive chapters, that seems to lack the real meat of the symbolism that strive to teach. Why the triangle? Why the tools? How do they relate? What else do they relate to?
What makes this diminutive book exciting is the steady measure and rhythm of the question and answer catechism that should be familiar to every Mason who’s tested through the blue lodge degrees. Br. Nagy, in approaching the common education, has stepped outside the box and back into the lodge room to recapture the creative verve each of us experience in our mentor/pupil experience. The Q&A gives the reader a real sense of master and student development. For example:
I – Inquiry and R-Response
I: what is Logic?
R; The Art of thinking
I: What’s more?
R: The mechanics of thought, Analysis, and Synthesis.
I: What’s further?
R: Logic is concerned with things as they are known.
I: How is this important to a Mason’s life?
R: Masonry relies on thought, analysis, and synthesis; the ability to think well is essential to being a Mason.
I: What else?
R: Logic is supported by a firm understanding and usage of all the elements of Rhetoric.
This exchange continues throughout, taking you in ways impossible to imagine at the onset and impossible to foresee at its conclusion. It’s from this back and forth exchange through the myriad of symbolic connections that the learning takes place.
I have to admit, that in reading it, I found myself imaging the questions coming from someone else, and it seems to me that was the intent in putting this jewel together.
Another great attribute I found is at the start of every chapter (of which there are 12) there is a small summary of what is to come. But the summary is not a list of upcoming ideas or key points but rather a short anecdotal parable of the chapters relationship to the teaching; not the how and the why, but the how of the why. The book really builds on itself.
As a catechism, it does make for a quick read, but the material is not meant to be taken in all at once. The small stature of the book definitely conveys a sense of it being a quick to get through, but each chapter could be read and then reread to pull the nuance and flavor from the text. It really does go deep into the connective symbolism and builds a strong foundation.
Another fun aspect that I found in the book is the abundant use of cipher throughout, but again in a most unconventional manner. Yes, it is the “Masonic” cipher, but repurposed and re-keyed to make it unique to this book and for this books message. And, I have it on good authority that in all of the code inclusions the reader will find several jewels to delight and entertain.
At the beginning of the book, Br. Nagy says “The Masonic journey that begins with the preparation of ones heart does not end at becoming a raised mason….”and this book will definitely help shape that the uncommon journey of the raised Mason with his uncommon education. I think this book is an excellent educational tool to every newly made Mason and every mason on that journey that wants to learn something new.
You can find “Building Hiram…” in our Gift Shop direct from the publisher! And, you can listen to the Masonic Central pod cast with Brother John Nagy as we discuss the book.