Building Hiram – a review

Building Hiram - Uncommon Catechism for Uncommon Masonic Education by John Nagy

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.

Are Illiterates Raising Illiterates?

booksby Br. John Nagy

If you’re old to Masonic Education you know that, for the most part, “average formal Grand Lodge backed” Masonic Education programs exist today as:

  1. Memorizing Degree Catechism
  2. Learning Ritual and floor work
  3. Reviewing the Digest of Law and taking exams based on it
  4. Reading Pamphlets
  5. Perusing Degree Handbooks
  6. Following Officer Manuals

If you’re more fortunate than most, you may even have some Brothers show up at lodge once in a while to provide some interesting tidbits on Masonic history. These are all important and form a stable foundation to continue the necessary support that Freemasonry requires to survive. What is missing though is the kind of education that many Masons are starving for and which Properly Raises them toward the level that Freemasonry was intended to have.

This is a bold statement and one that requires some explanation so let me ask the obvious question, “What are they starving for?” They starve for the truly important aspect of Masonic Education most missing today: how Masonry applies to their lives overall. Without a firm understanding of how Masonry manifests in our lives, what it means and how it helps us Build better lives, the true Masonic lessons are lost, leaving Masons unfulfilled and dissatisfied.

The sad part of this situation is that it is caused by self-sabotage. We Masons are held back because we have falsely labeled ourselves for years. What’s needed to move forward is an earnest effort to dismiss this notion that we are merely “Speculative Masons.” This is blatantly misleading.

Let me place something firmly before you to consider: All Masons who use Masonry to help themselves Build better lives are “Operative Masons;” Masons today do work in and on Stone; it’s not recognized as Stone though, and that is part of the problem. Most of us Masons don’t understand the symbols before us!

Every Working Tool mentioned in Masonic Ritual has Authentic Application in the real world. What is missing though is a foundational understanding as to the application of these tools in our lives today. We don’t see this because the very symbols that are shared within Ritual do not speak to us today as they did in years past. In this respect, Masons being Raised today are symbolically illiterate. They do not have a sufficient Symbolic Education to be Raised properly; which leads me back to the statement I wrote earlier, most Masons are not Properly Raised.

Let me run a few frank statements past you to consider further.

Freemasonry is Building Builders. Sound Building is based on the ability to properly Understand and Work with Symbols. The basis of Symbolic Education is stated within Masonic Ritual. The final Steps Masons must take to prepare themselves for being Properly Raised are alluded to in the FC lecture. The first three of the final Steps are in preparation for understanding and using Symbols as Words; the last four are in preparation for understanding and using Symbols as Numbers. These Seven Steps are important because without a firm understanding of Symbols, Freemasons metaphorically die of hunger in a grocery store jam-packed with food for lack of an ability to access that which is immediately before them.

These last seven Steps are Symbolic in Masonry and were once considered the Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences. They were initially used as preparation for serious study in Philosophy and Theology. Without their foundation, the training in Symbols, one could not properly deal with Symbols, also known in some circles as “the Word” or “the Logos.” Masons may go through the motions of being Raised, but until they are capable of raising their level of understanding above the actual words and numbers, they are Symbolically Illiterate, hence they’re unable to read what is before them.

In this respect, Masonry has failed as an organization. As truly successful as Masonry is in preserving our “food locker of symbols,” our Brothers starve and loose interest because they lack access keys to this locker. The saddening aspect of this is that few Brothers understand this; fewer still are willing to work toward changing this.

In general, we Masons as a whole look at increasing numbers, retention of members and ability to “repeat back without firm understanding” as key indicators of our success. They will never be indicators of success – ever!

The challenges we are faced with are based in educating our members in Symbolic Understanding and Use; our problems are based in our Educators not focusing on this; the troubles that are focused on today are a symptom of our not meeting the challenge before us; they are not the cause but we’ll have to live with them until we change our focus.

People support what they can “make sense of” and “use” in their lives. What’s more, when others see how well things are working for Masons, we will attract others in kind. Ironically, if we stick with the basics and educate our members in Symbolic understanding and application, we’ll attract far more members then we could ever imagine.

Building Hiram - Uncommon Catechism for Uncommon Masonic Education by John Nagy

Let’s make a unified effort to give our Brothers the keys to the Masonic locker. All that is required is taking seven simple Steps.

You can hear an interview with Br. Nagy on Masonic Central!

Dr. and Br. John Nagy is the author of the new book:

Building Hiram Uncommon Catechism for
Uncommon Masonic Education Vol. 1.

A Handbook for the Freemason’s Wife

A Handbook for the Freemason's Wife
A Handbook for the Freemason’s Wife

Seldom does a diminutive book deliver on the promise that it makes.  More often than not, the reader is left wanting more.  But this time, that’s not the case, and the A Handbook for The Freemason’s Wife delivers exactly the right dose of information to answer almost every question that the spouse or partner of a Mason, or Mason to be, could imagine to ask.

Packed into a slim journal, the guide is one part Q&A, another part encyclopedia, and a third part experiential, as it is the collaborative effort of Masonic wives Philippa Faulks (who you may remember from her appearance on Masonic Central) and Cheryl Skidmore.  Together, the two have close to 30 years experience in the enjoyable trade of being the wives of Freemasons.  And, from that experience, nearly every nuance to the fraternity gets touched upon to put the ideal reader (the wife of a Freemason) at ease.

The book, in its simplicity, makes the hard task of explaining what exactly we Masons do, in and out of the lodge, that much easier.  I found that the short description of the history, the quick trip through the emblems, and the overview of events and banquets were smart and to the point.

On top of all that, in between the meatier content is a good collection of Masonic poetry, songs, trivia, and to top it off, one of the funnier Masonic jokes I’ve heard in a while.

A Handbook for The Freemason’s Wife really is a must have for the Masons spouse.  Its already answered a few of my wife’s questions, and I’ve only left it out for her to find a couple of times.  Imagine what would happen if you put it in her hands…

The handbook comes from Lewis Masonic, and if you’re the U.S. side of the pond, you can find it at Amazon.

Two publications Every Mason should pick up!


Two publications that I happened upon today (one that landed in my mailbox and the other that landed in my cart).

The first happens to be a Masonic publication from The Masonic Society, aptly called The Journal of the Masonic Society, issue No. 2.

You may recognize the cover, I know it’s familiar to me. This second issue is late in coming for the Autumn edition, but worth the wait. It contains some very key contributions from across North America on topics including membership, esoterica, and a lil something in there from me. Its not often that an artist gets to write his own introduction to his work. This publication is living up to its early press and delivering a quality piece of work with a wide array of content and insight. And the artwork and layout is just stunning.

Secret Societies

The other publication has been out for a while, but after seeing a copy in a lodge brothers hand, I knew I had to pick myself up one.

This one comes from the US News and World Report and is a compendium of their series on Secret Societies aptly called Mysteries of History – Secret Societies. Its a pretty dense issue pushing almost 90 pages and no ads. I found my copy on the newsstand, but it was the last copy on the shelf. It goes into some detail (from the cover) on the Masons, Religious Cults, Scientology, Opus Dei, the Mafia, Skull and Bones, and more! Not exactly the cast of characters that Freemasonry likes to be associated with, but certainly a conspiracy theorists dream journal.

I’m looking forward to the chance to dig into them, but have to admit I’ve read through the Journal most of the way through today. Both will be good reads for anyone looking for a news or book lite experience. And, they look pretty spiffy too.

You can get The Journal of the Masonic Society Here
and You can pick up the Mysteries of History – Secret Societies Here.