The Twenty-Four Inch Gauge and the Circadian Rhythm

The Twenty-Four Inch Gauge and the Circadian Rhythm 

2913 49th Street, 
Des Moines, Iowa  50310 

  The twenty-four inch gauge--one of the working tools of 
Masonry--teaches us to make the best use of our time.  In a 
twenty-four hour period, we learned that eight hours should be 
devoted to the service of God and a worthy distressed Brother, 
eight hours in our usual vocation, and eight hours for rest and 

  Early Masons, who determined how to best use their time, may 
not have known all of the ramifications of the twenty-four hour 
cycle.  A study conducted by the National Institute of Mental 
Health reveals some remarkable facts about the twenty-four hour 
internal clock or circadian rhythm as it is known scientifically.  
This internal clock runs whether we are hungry or full, and 
whether it is dark or light. 

  A scientist in the Antarctic, where it is light for months at a 
time, went to bed when he felt sleepy.  He discovered that it was 
fifteen minutes later each day until the 28th day when "sleepy 
time" reverted to the usual time and began over again. 

   Even plants in the dark open and close their leaves at regular 
intervals.  Newborn babies acquire the circadian rhythm within 
sixteen weeks or less.  Birds and lizards that were raised in 
soundproof rooms with temperature and light control came by the 
circadian rhythm without ever seeing daylight or any other living 
creature.  Scientists in confinement in caves where there was no 
light soon adhered to the twenty-four hour internal clock even 
though their conception of time was flawed. 

   Attempts have been made to change the cycle to 12, 18 or 48 
hours, but those who participated in the experiment became 
irritable and were error prone. 

   Jet lag is related to circadian rhythm and results when the 
normal rhythm is upset.  The symptoms, familiar to most 
travelers, include fatigue, tendency to error and general 

   In addition to the circadian twenty-four hour cycle, there are 
longer cycles known as infradian cycles. The female 29 day cycle 
is one of these, but men also have a similar cycle which is not 
as pronounced. The cycle in the male is of similar length and was 
confirmed by hormonal studies. 

   Dr. Franz Halberg of the University of Minnesota made some 
interesting conclusions from his years of study on this subject.  
Among his findings were the fact that deaths from 
arteriosclerosis were greatest in January.  Accidental deaths 
were more prevalent in July and August, and suicides greater in 

   Considering, again, the circadian twenty-four hour cycle, Dr. 
Charles Czeisler of Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital 
determined from his studies that more humans die around six in 
the morning, more heart attacks and strokes occur around nine in 
the morning and peak onset of labor in women is between one and 
seven in the morning. 

   Both doctors concluded that physical performance is poorest 
between two and six in the morning and, as a result, there are 
more one-car accidents during that period. 

   One study accented the physical variations daily when they 
gave rats an identical drug dosage at two different times of day.  
Of the rats given the drug during their active cycle, a high 
percentage died while those given the same dosage during their 
rest cycle had only one death out of ten. 

   Such studies have led to speculation that there may be a day 
when doctors will maintain a sort of circadian map for every 
patient.  Information in that map would determine the best time 
for most effective medication or treatment. 

   Dr. Czeisler has been successful in altering some faulty 
circadian patterns by use of light--much brighter than average 
room lighting--applying it scientifically to achieve desired 
changes.  The treatment has been applied to patients suffering 
from depression, fatigue or sleep disorders. 

   Although there is still much to be learned, the presence of 
rhythmic cycles in humans and animals is well established.  Our 
Masonic forefathers, who used the twenty-four inch gauge as a 
measure to divide wisely our time, may not have known about 
circadian rhythm, but they certainly recognized the importance of 
adhering to a schedule for personal well-being.