Page 19 - Education Programs
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                                              By J. Fairbairn Smith

                                                    Short Talk Bulletin: May 1979

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 there all the time."

In every Masonic Lodge room there is, or should be, the Rough Ashlar and the Perfect Ashlar.
These two and the Trestle Board constitute our Movable Jewels. What is their significance? What
do they have to do with Masonry?

In our monitorial work we are taught that the Rough Ashlar "is a stone as taken from the quarry in
its rude and natural state" and that the Perfect Ashlar "is a stone made ready by the hands of the
workman, to be adjusted by the working tools of the Fellow Craft." The Rough Ashlar was not a
stone that was merely picked up somewhere. It was a stone that has been selected. Some work was
done upon it. It was apparently a good stone. It was a stone that showed good prospects of being
capable of being made into a Perfect Ashlar. If it had not been 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 somewhere. He must be
selected. Before he is ready to be initiated some work must be done upon him. He must stand
certain basic tests. He must be apparently of good material. He must be a man who shows good
prospects of being capable of being made into 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 and never adds to. He
chips and chips. He cuts away the rough edges. He removes the visible flaws, he does not create
by chemical means or otherwise, a new material. He takes that which is already there and develops
it into the Perfect Ashlar.

The stone from which the Venus de Milo was carved by an unknown sculptor of ancient times, lay
since the beginning of time in the rocks of the Island 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 the
beautiful statue. It took a good piece of marble and a skilled artist to produce the Venus de Milo.

Not many operators in Masonry can make a Perfect Ashlar. So there are not many perfect Masons
in our Lodges. In our Ritualistic and other 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 thing is to have a good material upon which to work.

This statement is applicable to all mankind, but to us as Symbolic Masons, it is pregnant with
meaning, for, was not each one, at the commencement of his Masonic career, placed in the
Northeast corner as an example stone, in the hope that the stone so placed would, in the fullness
of time, be wrought into a thing of beauty acceptable to the builder?

What does the poet say of the stone?

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