Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Winding Staircase: Brain-change for the 21st century

As Fellowcraft Masons we are advised to learn all we can about our world and our Universe through study of the Seven Liberal Arts, or the Trivium of grammar, rhetoric and logic and the Quadrivium of arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy. All seven make an integrated whole which also makes all seven necessary.

One of the 20th century's greatest thinkers — some say the greatest — was Albert Einstein. He has been quoted as saying, "If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music."

Einstein would probably have made a good Freemason. Not only a renowned physicist and an accomplished violinist, he was a noted writer who penned not only about science, but about matters close to his heart — politics, health, even love.

Archives of more than 43,000 documents by or about him are maintained at the Einstein Archives Online. And in Jerusalem, you can visit, by appointment, the Albert Einstein Archives at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

On relativity, he wrote: "It followed from the special theory of relativity that mass and energy are both but different manifestations of the same thing — a somewhat unfamilar conception for the average mind....

"Furthermore, the equation E is equal m c-square, in which energy is put equal to mass, multiplied with the square of the velocity of light, showed that very small amounts of mass may be converted into a very large amount of energy and vice versa. The mass and energy were in fact equivalent, according to the formula mentioned before. This was demonstrated by Cockcroft and Walton in 1932, experimentally."

Einstein's theories predict two effects in space (or of space) that are currently being tested by a NASA satellite, the Gravity Probe B, launched into space from the California desert three years ago, on April 20, 2004.

One of the predictions, according to physicists who met in Jacksonville, Florida recently, has proven to be true.

From a recent BBC article titled "Einstein was right, probe shows":
A common analogy is that of placing a heavy bowling ball on to a rubber sheet.

The bowling ball will sit in a dip, distorting the rubber sheet around itself in much the way a massive object such as the Earth distorts space and time around itself.

In the analogy, the geodetic effect is similar to the shape of the dip created when the ball is placed on to the rubber sheet.

If the bowling ball is then rotated, it will start to drag the rubber sheet around with it. In a similar way, the Earth drags local space and time around with it — ever so slightly — as it rotates.

Over the course of a year, these effects would cause the angle of spin of the gyroscopes to shift by minute amounts.

The mission's principal investigator, Professor Francis Everitt, from Stanford University, discussed preliminary results at the American Physical Society meeting in Jacksonville at the weekend.

The data from Gravity Probe B's gyroscopes clearly confirm Einstein's geodetic effect to a precision of better than 1%.
Hopefully all Masons will remember their Fellowcraft instructions, and keep their brains in tune by examining their Universe through study of the Seven Liberal Arts. Read a book. Debate a point. Work a crossword or sudoku or even a jigsaw puzzle. Strum a guitar or pound a piano. Stare at the Moon with binoculars. Plot something on a graph. Do some algebra or calculus or just add up a row of figures. Take a class — or teach a class — at your local college. Explore your world. Explore the Winding Staircase.

Image: A Fellowcraft tracing board.

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  1. Amen!

    Personally, I have an interest in Artifical Inelligence and Expert Systems. I am currently working up an expert system to make my job easier.

    I have also read Stephen Hawking, and more recently Richard Bach's Illusions.

    Like I said in one of my posts, Freemasonry encourages us to run the fabric of the universe through our minds and hands.

  2. Ah, yes. I remember reading Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah several times long ago and far away. Great book. I devoured several of Bach's books way back when, but Illusions was always my favorite.

    — W.S.

  3. Great post! Too many Masons miss this aspect of our Craft, not really taking the admonitions of the lecture to heart. As for myself, Freemasonry has sparked a renewed interest in the sciences in my mind, and has lead me,more specifically, to a renewed interest in areas such as astronomy and astrophysics.

  4. I'm trying to have the Fellowcrafts of my lodge write a 1000 words essay on each one of the liberal arts and sciences before they can move on to becoming Master Masons.

    I figured that it might be the last time they look at them so it might be worth it.

    I'm encountering a lot of opposition to that idea however.

  5. Lovely post, WS. I would add that travel is a vital part of any ongoing liberal education, because of the many benefits it brings in terms of expansion of worldview--and perhaps more importantly, it helps us better understand ourselves and where we come from. In our ritual the new Fellowcraft are encouraged to travel, which among other things, means they are encouraged to visit other lodges and obediences.

  6. This also raises another issue:
    Are the seven liberal arts and sciences still relevant, or indeed, adequate?
    Should we add some? Trade some with something else?
    If so, what would those be?

  7. i think my interest in the liberal arts was a defining factor in becoming a mason in the first place.

    my love of viewing the world wearing the apron of a mason has very much helped me find yet more interest and passion for quantum theory, philosophy, poetry, art, and sacred geometry.

    a wonderful post, brother, and one my science-minded friends enjoyed as well.

    peace and blessed be,

    c z . . .

  8. To Bro. Accousti:

    I would say that the Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences are still quite relevant.

    We, as a nation, lack good grammar, are dominated by rhetoric, devoid of logic, incapable of performing simple arithmatic, (as any McDonald's cashier will demonstrate when the register goes down), scorn geometry, spew some of the most awful music on the planet, and are clueless about astronomy. (Johnny, please poiint out Arcturus.)

    I think they are the building blocks, (PLEASE pardon the pun!) of education. But what the heck do I know, I'm just a lowly Senior Deacon.)


  9. ...who can't open and close parenthisis. (Garn!)


  10. How about a 1000 word paper on brotherhood?
    One may have excellent grammar, beautiful rhetoric, be extremely logical, mathematically sharp, grasp and apply the properties of geometry, have a love a fine music or love natures own musical compositions and wonder at the movements of the heavenly bodies,
    but, if he does not adopt tolerance and brothery love, what good is that knowledgable stiff?

    Brotherhood and tolerance is the keystone of our fraternity,and should be the primary focus of all new men joining.
    being able to show proficiency in the 7 liberal arts is a neat side note, but it is in no way a precursor to brotherhood,ultimatley, priorities should be towards the nurturing of a tolerant mason who loves all men created under god.
    IMHO ofcourse.........

  11. TubalCain420: How about a 1000 word paper on brotherhood?

    That's part of what I ask them to do as Entered Apprentices. I've seen too many people join Freemasonry without knowing why just because it sounds cool. I try to make them think hard before they go any further.

    Now, if only I could have my lodge raise initiation fees to 1000$, we might have less people who join just to see what the fuss is all about...

  12. here here!

    I am trying to emphasize brotherhood, the 24in gauge and the setting maul.
    those three alone are enough to keep one busy......
    love and tolerate one another
    don't devote too much time to masonry or one becomes possesive..
    and finally,
    use the setting maul to smote the ego, so we can creat an environment of equality!

    I try to keep it simple at first....


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