|The Rough and Perfect Ashlars
The Tracing Board lecture in the First Degree, as well as the stones situated on the Wardens pedestals,|
indicates to us particular attributes which we would do well to remember in our Masonic Education.
Instruction regarding the two Ashlars should not be considered as being completely explained during
the lecture, but part of a continual process undertaken by individual brethren and outlined below.
An eminent sculptor was once asked "How do you carve such beautiful statues?"
He replied, "It is the simplest thing in the world.
I take a hammer and chisel and from a massive, shapeless rock,
I knock off all the stone I do not want, and there is the statue.
It was in there all the time."
What then, is the significance of the Rough and Perfect Ashlars,
and what do they have to do with Freemasonry?
The Rough Ashlar is not a stone that was merely picked up anywhere.
It is a stone that has been selected.
Some work has been done on it.
It is apparently a good stone.
It is a stone that has shown the prospect and capability to be made into a Perfect Ashlar.
If it were not a good stone, it would never have been cut out from the quarry.
So it is with our prospective member.
He cannot be merely picked up anywhere, but must be selected.|
Before he is ready to be initiated, some work must be done on him.
He must pass certain basic tests.
He must be apparently of good material, show good prospects,
and the capability of becoming a good mason.
If he had not been a good man, he should never have been proposed for membership.
In changing a Rough Ashlar into a Perfect Ashlar,
the workman takes away stone and cannot add to it.
He chips and chips.
He cuts away the rough edges.
He removes the visible flaws, and
does not create by chemical or other means, any new material.
Rather he takes what is already there, and develops it into a Perfect Ashlar.
The marble from which the Venus de Milo statue was carved by an unknown sculptor of
ancient times, lay since the beginning of time in the rocks on the Island of Milo.
A common, unknown workman may have cut a huge piece of marble from the quarry,
but it took a master artisan to carve out that beautiful statue.
Therefore it took both a good piece of stone and a skilled artist to produce the Venus de Milo.
In our Ritual and ceremonial work, we can take away much of the roughness,
remove the sharp points and obliterate the visible defects.
We can produce as good a Mason as there is within our power to produce.
But the essential things are to have good material upon which to work,
and also the working tools and talents with which to operate.
That kit of tools, are those talents with which the GAOTU has blessed us,
to enable us to fulfill our mission in life, to the best of our capabilities.
However, we must also help each other by compensating for those talents
which we ourselves do not have.
Thus each of us will be assisted in carving out
'the Grand Design of being happy and communicating happiness',
and thereby become 'more extensively serviceable to our fellow creatures'.
The shapeless mass is a man's character, and each one of us is
his own Architect, Builder and Material.
Like our predecessors, the Operative Masons,
we must use our craftsmanship in producing the Perfect Ashlar,
'fit only to be tried by the square of our own conscience'.
Let us pause for a moment and earnestly ask ourselves, -
"What are we making? - A stumbling block or a stepping stone????"
If a Man's life is such that he cannot 'join in the grand design of being happy
and communicating happiness to others', then he is a stumbling block,
not only to himself but to those with whom he is associated.
If that man is a Freemason he should study the Ritual and discover the inner meanings,
in order that he can learn how to improve his personal state.
As with the Operative Masons, poor material would have endangered the material structure.
So with us as Speculative Masons, a "faulty" Ashlar will endanger
the spiritual temple we are endeavouring to build.
Having found, by the strictest inquiry, that the applicant - our mould stone - is suitable,
we have by those inquiries knocked off some of the irregularities which surrounded him.
After his initiation, he is represented as the Rough Ashlar, that is,
the stone is no longer a mould stone but approximating a cube which still requires
a considerable amount of 'dressing' before the Perfect Ashlar within it can emerge.
Whilst the common gavel and chisel are the tools suitable for reducing the roughness, they
cannot alone cannot knock off all 'superfluous knobs and excrescences' and make him perfect.
Rather during further education he receives the Square,
with which 'to try and to adjust all rectangular corners',
and become 'a stone of true die and square'.
In conclusion let us consider the Perfect Ashlar in a more geometric sense.
We notice that it has six equal and similarly shaped square sides.
No matter how it is placed down on the level, it must stand on one of its faces
and present a similar face to the observer, from any point of view.
It is the only geometrical body which requires no support from its fellows
when placed in line with similar cubes, demands its own space,
and lines up perfectly with the others on it's top, bottom and sides.
The Perfect Ashlar is thus a stepping stone to our higher satisfaction in this life.
Lodge Education Officer
7th February 2011