The Masonic Trowel

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The Movable Jewels

From The Grand Lodge Of Texas

During the Entered Apprentice lecture, the new initiate is introduced to the six Jewels belonging to the Lodge, three immovable and three movable. The moveable Jewels are the Rough Ashlar, the Perfect Ashlar, and the Trestle-Board. The new Entered Apprentice Mason is told “the Rough Ashlar is a stone as taken from the quarry, in its rude and natural state. The Perfect Ashlar is a stone made ready by the hands of the workmen, to be adjusted by the tools of the Fellow-Craft. The Trestle-Board is for the Master workman to draw his designs upon.” Unfortunately, this portion of the lecture is monitorial and, in many lodges, not given to the new Mason. He must depend upon a knowledgeable brother to lead him to these Jewels or he must of his own initiative discover the Jewels of the Lodge. However, these Jewels have a symbolic nature that is important to the Mason.

In its normal use, an ashlar is a stone taken from the quarry to be prepared for use in building construction. In Freemasonry, the ashlar has been adopted in its two states as a symbol in the first degree. The Rough Ashlar is the stone as cut and taken from the quarry in its unfinished state. As such, it reminds the Mason of his rude and imperfect state by nature. Through the development of his intellectual self by wholesome education, he strives to move from this imperfect state to a more perfect state. This state is represented by the Perfect Ashlar, which has been smoothed, squared, and fitted for the builder’s use.

It has been said the purpose of Freemasonry is to take good men and make them better. Perhaps it is more appropriate to say that the purpose of Freemasonry is to take good men who have the potential to be better and help them cultivate that moral and spiritual portion of themselves so they become better members of society. The rough ashlar is that stone taken from the quarry in an unfinished state, but the stone must be of good quality, without defects or cracks, with the potential to be worked into a perfect, smooth ashlar. That is why Masonry accepts only those who come under the tongue of good report without scandalous or immoral backgrounds. As an Entered Apprentice, the new initiate is just beginning his Masonic journey. As such he represents that rough stone taken from the quarry, a person who desires to improve himself morally and intellectually. While rough in his rudimentary form, he possesses moral and personal qualities that recommend him to the Fraternity and he has expressed the desire to pursue personal growth through education and enlightenment.

As he proceeds through his Masonic initiation, he is exposed to many lessons and symbols to expand his intellect and encourage his personal development. These lessons and symbols represent a wholesome influence to assist him in strengthening his moral and spiritual self. As Masons we must constantly strive to perfect that which is good and noble in our lives so we become the Perfect Ashlar, which under the skillful hands of the workman has been smoothed and squared for the Builder’s use.

In operative masonry, the trestle-board was important as an instrument upon which the ancient masters laid out the plans for building and worked out the problems of architecture. As a symbol it represents perfection. Masonically, the Trestle-Board may be applied to the individual Mason in his labors to construct his earthly moral and spiritual Temple following the designs laid out in the Book of Sacred Law. It is symbolically a spiritual board upon which the Mason pursues the development of his spiritual relationship to the Supreme Creator of the Universe. The laws of God, the highest ethical standards of conduct, and love for his fellow man should guide his actions. The pursuit represents his efforts to transform himself from the Rough Ashlar to the Perfect Ashlar.

The lecture explanation of the moveable Jewels ends as follows:

“By the Rough Ashlar we are reminded of our rude and imperfect state by nature; by the Perfect Ashlar, of that state of perfection at which we hope to arrive by a virtuous education, our own endeavors, and the blessings of God; and by the Trestle-Board, we are reminded that, as the operative workman erects his temporal building agreeably to the rules and designs laid down by the Master on his Trestle-Board, so should we, as Speculative Masons, endeavor to erect our spiritual building agreeably to the rules and designs laid down by the Supreme Architect of the Universe, in the greatest books of nature and revelation, which are our spiritual, moral, and Masonic Trestle-Board.”

May we as Masons constantly strive to live our lives in such a way that we progress towards that state represented by the Perfect Ashlar, that our fellow Masons see the virtues in our lives and deem them worthy of emulation, and that society sees our works as an outward manifestation of our spiritual, moral and upright conduct before our Creator, the Supreme Grand Architect of the Universe.

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Last modified: March 22, 2014