In Search of Smooth Ashlars
By Damien from Lodge Devotion
At our January meeting, Lodge Devotion was honoured to have WBro Alex visit us and expertly deliver the First Tracing Board Lecture with a preamble on the history of the Tracing Boards of Freemasonry.
I often notice additional and significant points within the Ritual of the Craft the more I hear it. Indeed it is said ours is a "progressive" system with interrelated and equally important parts - and that these must be understood with a keen bird's eye view of the entire ritual - although pieces of it do stand-alone. The more you listen and consider the Ritual of Freemasonry, the clearer it becomes that there is much to comprehend.
Upon hearing the First Degree Tracing Board Lecture last meeting - certain points came to the forefront of my mind and deepened my understanding of our "progressive science". One was the section of this Lecture that speaks of the importance of the Smooth Ashlar. This is the smooth cube of stone which sits on the Senior Warden's pedestal, symbolizing perfection after work shaping your stone; which is an metaphor for our character. The Smooth Ashlar is often represented as the goal of the Freemason. He starts as an unrefined Ashlar. Rough and Irregular. Needing further work in order to be perfect himself. However, becoming a Smooth Ashlar it not just a goal. The Smooth Ashlar is also an important tool - and one often missed. As explained in the subject Lecture, the "experienced craftsman" uses the Smooth Ashlar to test his square on.
The Square represents morality and conduct and in the simplest of terms should guide all our actions and "inculcate the purest principles of piety and virtue". The Square is also one of several tools to transform the Rough Ashlar, symbolising a Freemason whose personality and character can be further improved, toward becoming a Smooth Ashlar. However, while we can test the Ashlar with your Square, many forget we can also test our Square on the Smooth and True Ashlar.
The significance of testing your Square against a Smooth Ashlar should not be lost. If the Ashlars represent the character of a Mason, rough moving to smooth, and the square is the tool to achieve perfect symmetry, then identifying the right "Smooth Ashlar" to test your Square on and emulate is critical. We must carefully choose the role models on which we copy ourselves. We must rigorously examine the example we strive to emulate.
Today, it could be said the many of the stones held as exemplars are shiny rather than smooth or square. They are faulted, and in copying a faulted example, our work too is doomed to be faulted. Not Square. Not Regular. Not Perfect. Let's both be cautious in the Ashlars we attempt to copy, and in the Ashlars we offer to others to emulate and test their moral square on.