Monday, September 20, 2010

Another Thought on the Ashlars

It has been awhile since I have posted and I have been feeling a bit guilty of late about that. I started graduated school a few weeks ago and I must be honest, my cable tow has never felt shorter. On the upside, in thinking about my studies I have been considering some of its connections to the Craft. The connections are more personally impacting to me, but I think that there may be some light from which other Brothers may benefit.

It has been 20 years since I completed my undergraduate studies and I have decided that it was time (mostly because I am not getting any younger) to return and attain my Master's Degree. The process was a bit intimidating as I had to undergo some inspection before they would permit me to continue. You see, I am a student of the University of Pittsburgh's Social Work program and the process to become a part of it required some work. I am glad to say that I was found to be "true work" and was accepted.

The process and subsequently some of my studies that followed have had me reflecting on the subject of the ashlars again. So, I went back and did some reading on their symbolism. The Masonic Dictionary had this to say:

"...[T]he general purpose of the symbolism has been the same throughout - a reminder to the Candidate that he is to think of himself as if he were a building stone and that he will be expected to polish himself in manners and character in order to find a place in the finished Work of Masonry."

This is a pretty standard definition. As I read a little further down, I found this statement:

"The Ashlar is the freestone as it comes from the quarry. The Rough Ashlar is the stone in its rude and natural state and is emblamatic of man in his natural state - ignorant, uncultivated and vicious. But when education has exerted it's wholesome influence in expanding his intellect, restraining his passions and purifying his life, he then is represented by the Perfect Ashlar which, under the skillful hands of workman, has been smoothed and squared and fitted for its place in the building."

Now, while I found that passage to be quite fitting (especially in the subject of education), it also made me think about things a little further.

We have been taught that the ashlar is symbolic of a man in Masonry. The man is the stone - to be worked on and perfected by the proper application of the working tools. I have always thought that there is one ashlar (me) and that I was working to have it placed into the "building" (the Lodge/the Craft). But I have begun to wonder about our personal "building". Perhaps there is not one ashlar, but many - each with its own purpose and its own stage of readiness. Perhaps the quarry is our own soul and personality and that we select the proper stones to become ashlars in our own spiritual temple. Each of these stones whether they be education, happiness, anger control, becoming more spiritual or whatever else it is that we choose to include, are particular to each individual and each are necessary to the building of our own particular edifaces.

So, my Brothers, I am off again to continue work on this rough ashlar. I would like to leave you with this thought:

“A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” - Antoine de Saint-Exupery

No comments:

Post a Comment