Rough and perfect ashlar are stones that serve to symbolize a man’s spiritual and moral life.
It isn’t easy to cut stones to perfect sizes and shapes. It requires a lot of experience that only true craftsmen have.
In history, only large buildings were made of ashlars. Other buildings were built with brick and wood. It was difficult to assemble skilled craftsmen that knew how to lay foundation stones, lay stones the right way on top of one another for tall buildings, and build stone archways. It was also difficult to find artisans that could sculpt the stones into nice ornamental shapes.
Rough ashlars were cut and raised by apprentice masons. They did that under the supervision of Fellowcrafts who were experienced craftsmen.
The Master Masons were the general supervisors. The Master Masons had proved themselves as those that could make ashlars for the Master to the satisfaction of their superiors.
There are two forms of ashlars in Freemasonry.
The rough ashlar represents an unprepared, undressed stone in Operative Freemasonry. In Speculative Freemasonry, a rough ashlar represents an uninitiated Freemason before he becomes enlightened.
The perfect ashlar is the dressed stone that has been shaped, smoothed and made uniform with the mallet, chisel, tools and other working tools. The chisel is used in English Freemasonry, but it isn’t used as a Freemason symbol in the United States.
The perfect ashlar is the perfect stone that has been dressed by experienced stonemasons and fitted into architectural buildings and structures.
A perfect ashlar is a symbol of a Freemason that works to achieve a purposeful, principled, righteous life and does all he can to be enlightened.
Rough and Perfect Ashlars
The Rough and Perfect Ashlars are symbolically used in the Fellowcraft Degree. A man can improve his moral and spiritual being by education and acquisition of knowledge.
A Rough Ashlar begins as an imperfect stone. A man is also imperfect initially. But, the man can be shaped into a better being through brotherly love, cultivation and education. He becomes someone that has become shaped into a being that has been tried by the square of virtue, and he has become encircled by the compasses of his boundaries given to him by the Creator.
Rough and Perfect Ashlars That Have Been Fitted For Use by The Builder
In the days of old, quarried stones that could easily be shaped into the required configurations were called ‘freestone.’ Examples of freestone are sandstone and limestone. These rough stones must be refined and smoothed before they could be used.
In the Fellowcraft degree, the Rough Ashlar represents the unrefined state of a man and the need for the man to be improved. The unrefined man learns that he could become a better man through better conduct and better spirituality of thought. He is charged to become a better person through obligations, expectations and duties.
A Freemason continually smoothens his external and internal rough edges to become a better man and a better Freemason.
Once a man has smoothed his ashlar to his best, he starts to help his Brothers to become better people and better Freemasons.
Rough and Perfect Ashlars and Man’s Capability for Change
All rough ashlars have the potential to become perfect ashlars. But first, the rough ashlar must be made of solid materials and their character flaws must be minimal. They must be receptive to change, and they must be capable of being worked into a perfect stone. In line with this, candidates for each Masonic degree are asked a lot of questions to know more about their characters and their qualifications.
Candidates must have the capability to serve and support the Brotherhood. They must be carefully inspected to certify that they can fit into Masonic goals and tenets and remain compatible with God’s laws.
An imperfect ashlar can be made perfect, but some major flaws are difficult to change, and these flaws can weaken a structure when the ashlar is fitted into the structure. This applies to both men and stones.
Rough and Perfect Ashlars and States of Metamorphose
Freemason is a noble and ancient Brotherhood with a long history. A flawed ashlar can bring in negative thoughts, reproach and embarrassment to the Brotherhood from non-Freemasons outside the Brotherhood. So, flawed ashlars can’t be allowed to join the Brotherhood.
We must also understand that perfect ashlars can’t just be found in the stone quarries. They must be hammered, chiseled and polished before they attain their perfect state.
It’s hard to find ‘perfect men’ that exist without Brotherly light, guidance and love. It’s hard to find Freemasons that have not been in the state of rough and perfect ashlars at some point in their lives.
How Freemasons Can Contribute to the Making of Other Perfect Ashlars
- Freemasons must seriously consider their personal responsibility to educate other Brothers towards their improvement. We get enlightened when we assist others and donate to those in need. Master Masons uphold the tenets of the craft and teach other Brothers what they have learned.
- All Lodges must take time in judging the potential of a candidate. They must weigh their characters and evaluate their potential for change.
- All Freemasons must extend a friendly hand of affection and love, to help new Freemasons become better people. We must help them stand upright with the plumb, live on the square and become true Freemasons who will make the Creator proud of them.
All men who are worthy must take the lesson of the Rough and Perfect Ashlar seriously. We must take these lessons seriously so that we can become more knowledgeable and less ignorant, go from death to life and go from darkness to light.