The first three are categorized as the Trivium, the latter four labeled the Quadrivium. The Trivium, Nagy tells us: “ …is to convey to students an understanding of how Words are used as Symbols. Study of such matters includes the eventual ability to decode and encode meaning and intent using Words as a base.” The Quadrivium “… is to convey to the student and understanding of how Numbers are used as Symbols. Study of such matters includes the eventual ability to decode and encode meaning and intent using Numbers as a base.”
But the larger question I am sure you are asking by now is why is the book titled Building Athens? What does Athens have to do with the 7 Liberal Arts and Sciences?
Nagy tells us:
Masons unfamiliar with the legacy of Athens hamper their Masonic progress. To participate in Masonry at the Fellow Craft Level without having knowledge of Athens’ most famous citizens and, more specifically, their Works is to see and experience Ritual as a shadow show likened to that depicted in Plato’s Cave.
Most of us know about Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and Pythagoras. But how many of us have heard of Anaximenes, Heraclitus, Parmenides and Democritus, to name a few?
John “Coach” Nagy
Actually, 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.
“Grammar is many things. It is the Strength aspect of the study of Symbols as words. It is a fingerprint, identifying sources with such pinpoint accuracy that no masking can obscure it. It tells its observer the history, culture and attitude of its source. It develops the left Temporal, Occipital and Parietal lobes of the brain thus providing pattern recognition skills to those developed. As a Mason, I recognize that Grammar knowledge allows Masons to Travel in directions that hold back illiterate men.”
“Rhetoric is the Beauty aspect of the study of Symbols as words. Moreover, as only things of Beauty can do, it invites those affected to experience its Beauty by merely taking in what is offered. Any Persuasion that occurs is not forced though; it is not put upon those so invited. It is put forth to partake in and its recipients are wholly responsible for what they do with it.”
“To Master influences such as these, Masons must know what persuades. Rhetorical study cultivates understanding, insight and planning into this. It also requires Craftsmen to know what future such Work shapes. With such training Masters duly Craft its ends. As Centers of Influence, their Work creates Spheres of Influence.”
“Logic is essential in Building anything having Integrity. Non-reason condemns people to unnecessary, damaging and life-threatening conclusions. Ritual informs Masons that Logic is important. Masons must apply Logic in their Work to assure that what they have wrought is both sound and viable in supporting their aims. Sadly, Masons receive only a shadow of what is required Logically to Raise them Above the norm.”
“Logic is the Wisdom aspect of the study of Symbols as Words. Logical abilities allow Masons to discern Truth from fallacy. The power of right reasoning is deemed essential to Masons. Without Logic, Masons cannot comprehend their rights and duties. Without Logical faculty, men are considered insane; viewed as madmen and idiots; and denied admission into the Masonic Order. Lack of Logic also limits Travel.”
“Arithmetic lets Masons see the world in such dramatic detail that they appear to be sighted to the blind untrained. It requires foundational understandings of how Numbers manifest and what can be done with them. Arithmetic is the Strength aspect of the study of Symbols as Numbers. Through Arithmetic, the world becomes a familiar place.”
“How does this happen? Arithmetic study develops the abilities of Masons to recognize relationships and reveal patterns. Its study also forces Masons to understand, confront and deal effectively with concepts related to zero and infinity. Through its Strength, Arithmetic enables Masons to have real impact through development of analogy.”
“Geometry is one of two Wisdom aspects of the study of Symbols as Numbers. Geometry puts dimension to those concepts revealed and accepted during Arithmetic study. It also facilitates dealing with irrational quantities. Geometry trains the mind to imagine things that exist, things that may exist and things that will never exist. It’s amazing how much Geometry is part of our world.”
“Masons studying Geometry bring ordered thinking to their physical world. It also hones their critical thinking; sharpness portable to other disciplines such as Music and Astronomy. Of all the aspects of Masons developed by such study, the one applied toward the measure of man may very well be its most important.”
“Music is intimately dependent upon Arithmetic and Geometry. There is Logic behind its construction. Music has both a Grammar of its own and it is itself the Grammar of sound! Most importantly, its purpose is identical to that of words when employed as Rhetoric, through its use, it persuades. Lastly, understanding of Music supports a Mason’s understanding of Astronomy.”
“Music relates to internal and external motion and requires a firm understanding of how motion Works under certain conditions. Builders who know these basics can then both evaluate and devise systems that employ such motion.”
“Ultimately, the capstone of Liberal Art and Science studies opens up a Mason’s ability to seriously study of Theology and Philosophy. Astronomical information is often times conveyed within such texts and it takes a trained individual to identify when such information is present. This requires all the skills developed by Liberal Art and Science study.”
These are only the chapter headings – a tease. Where you 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 you 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?
From the three steps to the five steps, we now stand at the landing of of the middle chamber. On this journey we have climbed much – traversing up Jacob’s ladder in the first degree, climbed the first series of three steps and introduced to their significance in our maturity with an introduction to the Kaballah. Then, we traversed upon the next five steps where we were illustrated the role of architecture and to our senses to take in the exoteric and esoteric undertaking of the degree. Now, before us we confront the next leg, the next seven steps that have such meaning that they can scarcely be fully understood as they are contained in their presentation.
The seven steps allude to the seven Sabbatical years, seven years of famine, seven years in building the Temple, seven golden candlesticks, Seven Wonders of the World, seven wise men of the east, seven planets; but, more especially, the seven liberal arts and sciences, which are: Grammar, Rhetoric, Logic, Arithmetic, Geometry, Music, and Astronomy
Each of these arts, as they are defined come with a specific exoteric meaning, they are what they presume to be, and by that I mean that they are in fact what we consider comparable to be the Liberal Arts of study in university today.
At first blush, seven dissonant elements are mentioned first, but our concentration must first come to focus on the latter 7, the seven liberal arts and sciences. But why study a liberal arts course of study? Harvard, a school of some esteem and founded well before Masonry organized under its present day Grand Lodge system, says of a present day liberal arts education that “A liberal education is…a preparation for the rest of life.”
It goes on to say a liberal education…
“…is, an education conducted in a spirit of free inquiry undertaken without concern for topical relevance or vocational utility. This kind of learning is not only one of the enrichments of existence; it is one of the achievements of civilization. It heightens students’ awareness of the human and natural worlds they inhabit. It makes them more reflective about their beliefs and choices, more self-conscious and critical of their presuppositions and motivations, more creative in their problem-solving, more perceptive of the world around them, and more able to inform themselves about the issues that arise in their lives, personally, professionally, and socially. College is an opportunity to learn and reflect in an environment free from most of the constraints on time and energy that operate in the rest of life.”
Though the idea of what a liberal study was at the time of their inclusion in Masonry, the principal of that study was the same. This is no subtle assertion; the creators of the Masonic degrees agreed and included in them the instruction to pursue the study of this program to better make the Mason. In short, to make the man a better man with a firm understanding of the Liberal Arts is a necessary foundation for his being.
But what exactly does that mean? To see that answer, we must look at what resides within the study of the liberal arts as instructed by Duncan’s Monitor. To do that, we need to break down what the study of the Liberal Arts would entail in its age of inclusion.
The body of rules describing the properties of the English language. A language is such that its elements must be combined according to certain patterns, its morphology, the building blocks of language; and syntax, the construction of meaningful phrases, clauses and sentences with the use of morphemes and words.
The first codex for English grammar, concisely called Pamphlet for Grammar was compiled/written by William Bullokar, and was written with the ostensible goal of demonstrating that English was just as worthy and rule-bound as was Latin, and was published in 1586. Bullokar’s grammar was faithfully modeled on William Lily’s Latin grammar, Rudimenta Grammatices (1534), which was a Latin text and was used in schools in England at that time, as it was “prescribed” for them in 1542 by Henry VIII.
From early on we can see that the use of language was seen as an important necessity and that the study of Grammar and the use of language in communication of ideas to others as an important aspect of transferring knowledge.
Like grammar, is the art of using language to communicate effectively and persuasively involving three audience appeals: logos which is the “reason or the rational principle expressed in words and things”, pathos which is the ” the quality or power, esp in literature or speech, of arousing feelings of pity, sorrow”, and ethos which is the ” the distinctive character, spirit, and attitudes of a people, culture, era,”, as well as the five canons of rhetoric: invention or discovery, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery. Along with grammar and logic or dialectic, rhetoric is one of the three ancient arts of discourse dating back to antiquity and the great works of Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle of whose surviving texts we can read today. From ancient Greece to the late 19th Century, rhetoric was a central part of Western education, filling the need to train public speakers and writers to move audiences to action with arguments rather than coercion of force.
It is the use of language in persuasion of others, an interesting Masonic application, indeed.
With its origins from the Greek λογική logikē, is the study of arguments – Grammar and Rhetoric together. Logic is used in most intellectual activities, but is studied primarily in the disciplines of philosophy, mathematics, and computer science. Logic examines general forms which arguments may take comparing which forms are valid, and which are fallacies. It is a form of critical thinking. In philosophy, the study of logic figures into most major areas of focus: epistemology, ethics, and metaphysics. In mathematics, it takes place in the study of valid inferences within some formal language.
Clearly, we can see that Logis is the application of Grammar and Rhetoric together.
These three areas of study composed what the medieval universities called the tritium, meaning the “three roads” or “three ways” which was necessary in preparation for the quadrivium which are the next four liberal arts of ancient study. The use and preparation of this work was principally for the deeper study of philosophy and theology both noble arts in this period of the middle ages and Renaissance. The four studies came from the curriculum as outlined by Plato in the Republic, as written in the seventh book. The same quadrivium was suggested to of come from the Pythagoreans, as Proclus wrote in A commentary on the first book of Euclid’s Elements:
The Pythagoreans considered all mathematical science to be divided into four parts: one half they marked off as concerned with quantity, the other half with magnitude; and each of these they posited as twofold. A quantity can be considered in regard to its character by itself or in its relation to another quantity, magnitudes as either stationary or in motion. Arithmetic, then, studies quantities as such, music the relations between quantities, geometry magnitude at rest, spherics [astronomy] magnitude inherently moving”
Arithmetic,then, is the simple day-to-day counting to advanced science and business calculations involving the study of quantity, especially as the result of combining numbers. In day to day usage it refers to the simple properties of traditional operations such as addition, subtraction, multiplication and division with small number values.
The origins of Arithmetic are thought to date back to as early as 20,000 B.C.E. from ancient tally marks on bone, however earliest records date back to the ancient Egyptians and Babylonians of 2000 B.C.E. with numeral systems and counting marks. Continuous historical development of modern Arithmetic begins in the Hellenistic period of Greece with a close relationship to philosophical and mystical beliefs such as in the works of Euclid and Pythagoras, both Masonic patriarchs.
From the Greek as earth-measurement, geometry is concerned with the determination of shape, size, relative position of figures, and the properties of space. Euclid, Archimedes, Descartes, Kepler, and Pythagoras are but a few who are a part of this 5000 year old art of lengths, angles, area, and volume, of which works can be found in ancient Egypt and Babylon too. A fantastic example of their prowess we look to still today in the Great Pyramids of Giza.
The advanced study of Geometry today looks not just into the dimension and space of number, but into its correlation to physics, algebra, and string theory just to name a few as it puts to measure both the physical and invisible universe.
The art of the muses, is an art form whose medium is found in the creation of sound. Common elements of music are to be found in pitch (which governs melody and harmony), rhythm (and its associated concepts of tempo, meter, and articulation), dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture.
More than the study of melody and song, the Pythagoreans of ancient Greece were the first researchers believed to have investigated the expression of music in scale in terms of numerical ratios, particularly the ratios of small integers. Their central doctrine was that “all nature consists of harmony arising out of number”
On Pythagoreans scale, the Greek Pythagorean and Presocratic philosopher
Philolaus says in Carl Huffman’s “Philolaus,”
A musical scale presupposes an unlimited continuum of pitches, which must be limited in some way in order for a scale to arise. The crucial point is that not just any set of limiters will do. We cannot just pick pitches at random along the continuum and produce a scale that will be musically pleasing. The scale that Philolaus adopts is such that the ratio of the highest to the lowest pitch is 2 : 1, which produces the interval of an octave. That octave is in turn divided into a fifth and a fourth, which have the ratios of 3 : 2 and 4 : 3 respectively and which, when added, make an octave. If we go up a fifth from the lowest note in the octave and then up a fourth from there, we will reach the upper note of the octave. Finally the fifth can be divided into three whole tones, each corresponding to the ratio of 9 : 8 and a remainder with a ratio of 256 : 243 and the fourth into two whole tones with the same remainder. Thus, in Philolaus’ system the fitting together of limiters and unlimiteds involves their combination in accordance with ratios of numbers. Similarly the cosmos and the individual things in the cosmos do not arise by a chance combination of limiters and unlimiteds; the limiters and unlimiteds must be fitted together in a pleasing way in accordance with number for an order to arise. Fragment 6a suggests that Philolaus saw the cosmos as put together according to the diatonic scale. This would be very much in accord with the famous conception of the harmony of the spheres according to which the heavenly bodies make harmonious music as they move, but neither in Philolaus nor any other early source do we get an explicit account of how the musical scale corresponds to the astronomical system.
As you can see, the study of music, in its basic form of composition and in its deeper esoteric study, lends itself to the exploration of mathematics, logic, and geometry, which can lead to a better understanding of the universe itself, which brings us to the last element in this progression.
More precisely called astrology in its earliest Western study.
Astrology and astronomy were archaically one and the same discipline (Latin: astrologia), and were only gradually recognized as separate in Western 17th century philosophy during the “Age of Reason”. Since that time the two have come to be regarded as completely separate disciplines.
Astronomy, then, is the study of objects and phenomena from beyond the Earth’s atmosphere which is a science and widely studied in academic discipline discovering the expanse of the heavens in planets, stars, and other stellar phenomena. Astrology, which uses the positions of celestial objects as the foundation for predictions of future events, and other esoteric knowledge, which is not considered a science and is often seen as a form of divination.
The early astronomer/astrologer, despite its predictive application, would use the study of celestial bodies and chart the astrological movements in space which in turn were applied to correspondences in day to day life of those who he charted them for. Many renaissance scientists were astronomer/astrologers including Isaac Newton, Galileo Galilei, Tycho Brahe, Johannes Kepler. The infamous John Dee, astrologer and Magus for the court of Elizabeth I in 1558. Its suggested that by his charts he selected Elizabeth’s coronation date. The practice was in keeping with their earlier study pattern of the liberal arts and not seen as abhorrent to their conclusions in their time.
Scoffed at in academic circles today, the realm of astrology is often the fodder for cheap periodicals and psychic infomercials. In its deeper recesses we can link it to the study of the Kabbalah and the Western mystery traditions and find parallels to our perceptions and ideas even in our Masonic symbolism. Just a quick look at the Holy Saints John again will remind us of our own pairing of earth bound ideas to the equatorial poles of our sun’s annual transition from summer to winter and back again. Perhaps this is coincidence, or by design, in either case it gives us a link to our past in the Liberal studies. This is, in some aspect of antiquity, the role of astrology and the cycle of mankind and our understanding of it.
Notwithstanding the work in Duncan’s or in more localized versions of the Work, the number seven has a deep and rich symbolic significance within many circles. Cirlot, in his A Dictionary of Symbols says of the number seven that it is “Symbolic of perfect order, a complete period or cycle…composed of the ternary and quaternary and … endowed with exceptional value.” He goes on to suggest that it corresponds to the seven directions of space and to the reconciliation of the square with the triangle – the sky over the earth. Seven is the number expressing the sum of heaven and earth.
Now, as we have looked at the seven liberal arts it is necessary to turn back to the dissonant collection at the beginning of this section of steps to look at some of the other connections mentioned in Duncan’s Ritual Monitor to bring them into resonance. In this degree, Duncan mentions the seven Sabbatical years, seven years of famine, seven years in building the Temple, seven golden candlesticks, Seven Wonders of the World, seven wise men of the east, and seven planets. Briefly we must touch on what each of those things mentioned in the 7’s allude to and see if we can find any deeper esoteric meaning behind them to get a glimpse of their significance or meaning to Masonry.
The Number Seven
The Seven Sabbatical years, known also as Shmita, is the seventh year of a seven-year agricultural cycle as mandated by the Torah for the use of the Land of Israel. During that 7th year the land is to lay fallow and all agricultural activity on it stops (excluding some maintenance) and comes from the Book of Leviticus which makes promise of bountiful harvests to those who are observant:
Leviticus 25:20-22 N.I.V. 20 You may ask, “What will we eat in the seventh year if we do not plant or harvest our crops?” 21 I will send you such a blessing in the sixth year that the land will yield enough for three years. 22 While you plant during the eighth year, you will eat from the old crop and will continue to eat from it until the harvest of the ninth year comes in.
The seven years of famine stems literally from Genesis 41:30 which reads “And there shall arise after them seven years of famine; and all the plenty shall be forgotten in the land of Egypt; and the famine shall consume the land” which follows a 7 year period of great abundance. Interestingly, there are other activities in the period of the Sabbatical year, in which debts are to be forgiven as it is considered a Godly act, which becomes a component of the focus in that seventh year.
The seven years in building the Temple is clearly the story of Solomon building the temple in which…King Solomon raised up a labor force out of all Israel – and the labor force was thirty thousand men . . . Solomon selected seventy thousand men to bear burdens, eighty thousand to quarry stone in the mountains, and three thousand six hundred to oversee them. (1 Kings 5:13; 2 Chronicles 2:2). According to 1 Kings 6:38 The work of the temple took seven years saying:
“And in the eleventh year, in the month of Bul, which is the eighth month, the house was finished in all its parts, and according to all its specifications. He was seven years in building it.”
The seven golden candlesticks, literally from Revelations 1:20 (NIV) which reads
“The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lamp stands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lamp stands are the seven churches.”
This could, interpretively, be seen as the Menorah which is a seven branched candelabrum used in the ancient Tabernacle of Moses in the wilderness (not to be confused with the nine branched Menorah used at Hanukkah. The Great architect himself instructing Moses on the construction of the lamp in Exodus 25:31-40 a depiction of which can be found on the Arch of Titus, which is a first century Roman honorific on the Via Sacra in Rome which shows the spoils from the sack of Jerusalem.
The Menorah, when lit, was said to represent the Shekhinah, which refers to a dwelling or settling in a special sense as that of divine presence, to the effect that, while in proximity to the Shekhinah, the connection to God is more readily perceivable. Its lighting, or continual ignition, is variously representative of universal enlightenment and/or the burning bush as seen by Moses.
The temple menorah is a more likely source of Masonic inspiration as it fits with the appointments of King Solomon’s Temple, to whom Masonry holds its affinity and who’s role fits more in resonance with the purpose of the degrees.
The seven wonders of the world are very straight forward and are reflections on the impressive work of the Masons (literally stone cutters) who came before the present day lodge.
The Ancient Wonders were:
The Great Pyramid of Giza from 2584-2561 BC in Egypt.
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon from around 600 BC in Iraq.
The statue of Zeus at Olympia from 466-456 BC (Temple) 435 BC (Statue) in Greece.
The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus circa 550 BC in Turkey.
The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus 351 BC (to which the modern AASR SJ HQ is modeled after) in Carians, Persians, Greeks
The Colossus of Rhodes from 292-280 BC in Greece.
The Lighthouse of Alexandria circa 280 BC in Hellenistic Egypt, Greece.
The seven wise men of the east were early 6th century BCE philosophers, statesmen and law-givers that were renowned in the following centuries for their wisdom. The title of Seven Wise Men (or Seven Sages) was the title given by ancient Greek tradition.
Each of these Sages represents a worldly aspect of wisdom, though each has varied over time, these are the most common:
Cleobulus of Lindos: he would say that “Moderation is the best thing.” He governed as tyranos of Lindos, in the Greek island of Rhodes, circa 600 BC.
Solon of Athens: he said that “Keep everything with moderation”. Solon (640-559 BC) was a famous legislator and social reformer from Athens, enforcing the laws that shaped the Athenian democracy.
Chilon of Sparta: authored the aphorism “You should never desire the impossible”. Chilon was a Spartan politician from the 6th century BC, to whom the militarization of the Spartan society is attributed.
Bias of Priene: “Most men are simply bad.” Bias was a politician who became a famous legislator from the 6th century BC.
Thales of Miletus: Thales is the first known philosopher and mathematician. He famously said “Know thyself”, a sentence so famous it was engraved on the front façade of the Oracle of Apollo in Delphos.
Pittacus of Mytilene (c. 650 BC), governed Mytilene (Lesbos) along with Myrsilus. He tried to reduce the power of nobility and was able to govern Mytilene with the support of popular classes, to whom he favored. He famously said “You should know which opportunities to choose”.
Periander of Corinth: he was the tyranos of Corinth circa 7th and 6th centuries BC. Under his rule, Corinth knew a golden age of unprecedented prosperity and stability. He was known for “Be farsighted with everything”.
Collectively, these wise men have been quoted and mentioned throughout antiquity and have been looked to as great men worthy of emulation if in their least for their thoughts.
Plato’s Protagoras is the oldest and most explicit mention of the 7 sages in which he says:
“…There are some, both at present and of old, who recognized that Spartanizing is much more a love of wisdom than a love of physical exercise, knowing that the ability to utter such [brief and terse] remarks belongs to a perfectly educated man. Among these were Thales of Miletus, and Pittacus of Mytilene, and Bias of Priene, and our own Solon, and Cleobulus of Lindus, and Myson of Chen, and the seventh of them was said to be Chilon of Sparta. They all emulated and admired and were students of Spartan education, and one could tell their wisdom was of this sort by the brief but memorable remarks they each uttered when they met and jointly dedicated the first fruits of their wisdom to Apollo in his shrine at Delphi, writing what is on every man’s lips: Know thyself, and Nothing too much. Why do I say this? Because this was the manner of philosophy among the ancients, a kind of laconic brevity.”
The seven planets from classical astronomy included the Sun and Moon and the five non-earth planets of our solar system closest to the sun each visible without a telescope including Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. At an early point they were considered asteres planetai or wandering stars, as they were seen as non fixed objects in the night sky.
The astute observer may notice the inclusion of the Sun and the Moon as these two objects relate to the leadership of the lodge, the pillars of wisdom, strength, and beauty, and the art of Kabbalah.
As a side note, the early seven planets were the derivatives of the names of the week; in alchemy the seven metals of the classical world: gold, silver, mercury, copper, iron, tin, and lead which corresponded to the known planets.
How do we relate these 7’s to the degree is complex. Perhaps how Cirlot stated, each of these 7’s are elements of perfection: how to achieve perfection, how to live it, how to incorporate it, etc., giving us the map by which to seek it out.
With this, we have reached the top of the stair, and in having taken the journey we have learned what we can about the being of a Fellow of the Craft. As said earlier, this is a complex lot of knowledge and information to digest through the smallest of apertures as presented on a rolled out carpet as given in the degree lesson. It is assumed that the candidate would have knowledge of these esoteric things; in the sense that few would have studied them and even fewer committed them to memory, or that the candidate would seek out this information beyond their degree explanation to educate and enlighten himself as to what these various elements mean. This lesson in three parts is an offering of the latter in assumption that you, like the author, are in deficit of the former and not enlightened in the ways, means, and ideas of the deep and often obtuse ancient world that is so little a part of our modern one. Clearly, the second degree is a wealth of information, from the suggestion of the pillars of Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty as a conduit to the study of the Kabbalah, to the understanding of our senses and their physical and spiritual meaning and to the study of alchemy in its assertion of the significance of the seven planets and what we can infer from them physically as their position in the heavens affects our life. Perhaps Thales of Miletus said it best saying “Know Thyself“ as this change is the fuel to discovering the universe, both within and without. There is much more to this statement than what rests at its surface, of both the degree and of our being and, it is with some hope that this has served to educate you to that end.
 logos. (n.d.). Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. Retrieved January 03, 2011, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/logos pathos. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 03 Jan. 2011. <Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/pathos>. ethos. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged. Retrieved January 03, 2011, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/ethos Jean, James, Science and Music, p154 retrieved 1/03/2011 Huffman, Carl, “Philolaus”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2008 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2008/entries/philolaus/>. Cirlot, J.E., A Dictionary of Symbols, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul LTD 1962 page 283 : As the cross in three dimensions, 7 is a “Septenary number, composed of seven elements. “Ultimately, it is founded upon the seven directions of Space: two opposite directions for each dimension, plus the center. This spatial order of six dynamic elements, plus one which is static is projected into the week as a model of the septenary in the passage of time.” “Three is, in many cultures, the number pertaining to heaven (since it constitutes the vertical order of the three dimensional spatial cross) and four is associated with the earth (because of the four directions – comparable with the cardinal points of the two horizontal dimensions).” Protagoras 342e-343b, trans. R.E. Allen
An important part of the capitular degrees is the completion of an arch found in King Solomon’s Temple.
In the Mark Master and Most Excellent Master degrees, the discovery of the keystone as well as putting it at the apex of the arch constitutes a large part of the ceremonies of those degrees. However, the arch is widely regarded as being a Roman invention. So one may wonder whether the presence of the keystone and the portrayal of the completion of the arch during the time frame of these degrees is historically accurate.
Historians generally agree that the reign of King Solomon began around 970 B.C.1 The Old Testament states that Solomon began the construction of the temple in the fourth year of his reign.2 This means its completion came circa 959 B.C. Could it have been possible that the ability to construct an arch would have been known unto a Phoenician builder at that time?
Sir Banister Fletcher’s A History of Architecture states that the true arch was known to the Sumerian builders as early as the second millennium B.C.3 The term ‘true arch’ is an important detail. The true arch is distinctly different from the corbelled arch used by the Egyptians. The true arch is what the Romans are commonly lauded for creating. A definition of the word ‘arch’ says that “A true arch is curved. It consists of wedge-shaped stones or bricks called VOUSSOIRS (vu-swar’), put together to make a curved bridge which spans the opening.”4 The arch shown in art pertaining to the Capitular degrees displays this type of arch. Therefore, the theory that an arch constructed with wedge-shaped stones at King Solomon’s Temple is plausible since the true arch was used in Mesopotamia a thousand years before the temple’s construction.
However, there is a truly Roman characteristic to the arch as depicting in the Chapter. Banister says, “The really significant contribution of the Roman builders to the early development of the arch—and therefore the barrel vault—was to support it on freestanding piers.”5 The depiction of the arch found in the Chapter degrees shows it supported by free standing piers. This evolution did not take place until the first and second centuries B.C.5 So the piers shown as supporting the arch in the degrees of the Chapter would not have been found at the building of King Solomon’s Temple.
The idea that the completion of the temple was accomplished by placing the keystone in the arch could be historically plausible, if the piers of the arch were surrounded by masonry or earth in order to prevent them from moving laterally. So perhaps the the stone which the builders rejected did become the keystone of the arch in King Solomon’s Temple.
1.Old Testament Chronology of the NIV Study Bible published by Zondervan in 1985.
2.1 Kings 6:37-38
3. Banister, Fletcher and Cruickshank. A History of Architecture p.74.
4.Whitehead, Anne. Utah Educational Network.
5. Banister, Fletcher and Cruickshank. A History of Architecture p.197
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