The Brothers of Elvin E. Helms No. 926 met in Stated Communication on May 9, 2017. Our Worshipful District Deputy Grand Master Kevin Schneider of Bradford No. 123 was our guest speaker for the evening.
Seven Kinds of Ashlars
Tonight Brothers, I want to discuss “The Seven types of Ashlars used in Masonry”
Bastard Ashlar (0)
An Operative mason’s term for a stone that has been freed from the rubble that surrounds it, so that it can be taken to the building site -and- if selected be worked on.
Rough Ashlar (0/S)
A stone that is free of enough major imperfections that it can be worked by the builder to become suitable for use in the building. In speculative masonry the rough ashlar is a man who has been examined, he has been found free of major flaws. He is “accepted” to become a stone for our building.
Common Ashlar (0)
Once the rough ashlar is being worked on, it is referred to as the common ashlar. Any man who has undergone out initiation is a common ashlar.
Common – from Latin communis ” shared by all or many; general, not specific; familiar, not pretentious”
In our degree progression, this is a Brother who has been initiated. He should be acceptable to us all even if he did nothing to change himself. However, our ritual directs him (us) to actually undergoing the transformation that occurs from using the working tools of an EA.
Positioned Ashlar (0)
An ashlar that has been raised to the proper height and has been set into its final place within a structure.
Perfect Ashlar (O/S)
An ashlar that is completely suitable for the builder’s use. It is ready in its own right to be a part of the build. This is a Brother who has completed the EA work and is an upright man and Mason when viewed externally and internally.
This is a Brother who is considered a proficient EA.
Raised Ashlar (0/S)
An ashlar which has been further adjusted by the Working Tools of the fellow.
Cemented Ashlar (0/S)
Stones that bound together to complete the building. Only perfected, true, and properly positioned stones are use because they can be most easily and permanently cemented together.
Tonight I want to focus on the Perfect Ashlar. The question is: Do we ever become a perfect ashlar? If so, when? Your thoughts?
To explore this a bit, let’s consider the term “perfect”. Think about the following phrases:
• Perfectly fine (it will do)
• Perfect Game (no hits or runs)
• Perfect Gentleman
Part of the problem is that words today are used differently that they were in the past (queer> odd, gay> happy). So, let’s take a look at the etymology of the word perfect:
“to bring to full development,” late 14c., parfiten, from perfect (adj.).
early 15c. alteration of Middle English parfit (c. 1300), from Old French parfit “finished, completed, ready” (11c.), from Latin per “completely” (see per) + combining form of facere “to make, to do”
We even run into this term in religious writings:
The English Term Perfect:
Biblical and Philosophical Tensions– Dennis Bratcher (Christian Resource Institute)
The word “perfect” that we knock around so much in theological and biblical discussions is often misunderstood. We tend to apply an unqualified philosophical meaning to it and have it mean “without flaw” or “without error” or put it into other absolute categories. It then becomes easy to say that Jesus’ command in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:48), “Be therefore perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect,” is a laudable goal, but one that is impossible for human beings to achieve. That is even easier to do from certain doctrinal or theological positions that assume human beings cannot ever respond to God beyond their contaminated sinful nature (see Body and Soul).
The problem in this thinking is that the Hebrew word (tam or tamim) does not carry the same meaning of “without flaw” in an absolute sense as does the term “perfect” in English. Tamim basically means complete or mature or healthy (for example, Lev 22:21). There are some sacrificial passages in the Priestly codes that describe animals acceptable for sacrifice as tamim. Some might take this in an absolute sense as “without flaw.” However, the sense is really
“healthy” in the sense of “free from any mark or damage” (BBE) or with “no blemish” (NRSV, KJV). In other words, it must be a healthy animal and not be lame or sick or one that has obvious deformities
That meaning of healthy, whole, or mature dominates most use of the equivalent Greek term in the New Testament (telos or tefeios). Something, or someone, can be complete, healthy, or mature yet not be “without flaw.” So, while there are places In the New Testament that translate the word telos as perfect, other places reveal that it carries the meaning of healthy or mature. For example, in Ephesians 4:13
4:13 until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.
Here the word translated “maturity” is the word teleios, which is the same word translated “perfect” in Matthew 5:48: Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
So part of the problem is this: we confuse “perfect” to mean flawless, instead of mature or healthy. So at what point in our masonic lifetime are we considered mature?
I point you to the three ages of man as pointed out by our ritual. We are considered “adults” as Fellowcraft.
What point are we considered suitable so that we can be adjusted to fit in with our Brethren? At the end of the EA. We are adjusted, as it references in the degrees, by the Plumb, the Square and the Level. The EA degree is about “perfecting ourselves”. The Fe degree is about adjusting ourselves to fit others, so that we can be raised. And only after we are “tried” and found “true” with others can we be cemented together.
Our process of improving a man requires us to only admit the best men to our lodges. Why?
Think about the nature of the EA working tools, the 24″ gauge and the gavel. And if we add in the “missing tool” from our continental brethren, the difference becomes more obvious. That being the chisel? In operative masonry, what are these tools used for? In speculative, how are they used?
The working tools of the EA teach us to remove excess stuff. The compasses in the EA teach us to limit ourselves. Even the four cardinal virtues when fully analyzed teach us limiting behaviors.
So I ask you one final question tonight Brothers. Is there any part of our lodge’s maturing and improvement process that adds to the man??
If our tools only remove the bad stuff, then perhaps that explains why the “common ashlars” that we select for our lodges must be high quality men who are truly prepared when they come to our worksite.
I want to thank Dr John Nagy, the author of the BBB series, for allowing me to use the reference about the 7 Kinds of Ashlars. I want to thank WB Kemble for inviting me tonight. Thank you to the WM for allowing me to have this time. And finally thanks to all of you here tonight for your attention and participation. I hope you found this useful.