Symbolical Masonry, by H.L. Haywood, , at sacred-texts.com
A further meaning of the Square lies in the fact that it is the tool used by the workmen whereby to test the Rough and Perfect Ashlars. These should have been discussed, perhaps, in their usual position in the First Degree Lecture, but as space forbade a detailed examination of that Lecture, and as many of the symbols adverted to therein have been or will be explained in other connections, it may not be inappropriate to study the Ashlar symbolism in this connection, especially as the latter is so intimately related to the former.
"Not unnaturally," writes one author, "in times when the earth was thought to be a Square the Cube had emblematical meanings it could hardly have for us. From earliest ages it was a venerated symbol, and the oblong cube signified immensity of space from the base of earth to the zenith of the heavens." This world-old meaning was incorporated by the framers of our Ritual in the symbolism of the two Ashlars.
The Rough Ashlar is, according to the Monitor, "a stone, as taken from the quarry, in its rude and natural state"; a Perfect Ashlar is a "stone made ready by the hands of the workmen, to be adjusted by the working tools of the Fellow Craft." In connection with this, it must be remembered that even the Rough Ashlar is not a mere shapeless stone found by accident but a stone
roughly shaped, suggesting thereby that the Craft is selecting its materials and not attempting to make something out of nothing.
If the Rough Ashlar signifies the Apprentice coming crude and unfinished from the quarries of mankind, then the Perfect Ashlar is the man made complete by the influence of Masonry. When thus understood we may agree with the words of Brother J. W. Lawrence, whose little volumes of simple exposition enjoy a popularity justly deserved:
"The Perfect Ashlar, as a symbol, is the summum bonum of Freemasonry. That is to say, everything else in Masonry leads up to it. The V. of S. L. describes it, the checkered pavement illustrates it, the Great Architect no less than the Grand Geometrician desire it and are satisfied with nothing less. When the Craft has fashioned the Perfect Ashlar it has nothing else to do."
The distinction between the Rough and Perfect Ashlars is an eloquent example of the power of refinement, for the latter does not differ from the former in its substance, being the same stone as completed for use. Indeed, the word perfect properly means complete, and suggests that while none of us may hope ever to become flawless, at least in the present world, each of us may grow symmetrical—a full-orbed man in body, mind and spirit—to achieve which is not the least among the ideals of a Fraternity that asks us to remove all knobs and excrescences that so often disfigure us and render us unfitted for Fellowship.
Another meaning of the Ashlar symbolism is set forth by certain of the Old Lectures, in one of which occurs the following paragraphs: "He that is truly square, well-polished,
and uprightly fixed, is qualified to be a member of our most honoured society. He that trusteth such a person with any engagement is freed from all trouble and anxiety about the performance of it, for he is faithful to his trust, his words are the breathings of his heart, and he is an utter stranger to deceit." This is as well put as Emerson's description of a Perfect Ashlar man, whose character consists, he says, "in the power of self-recovery, so that a man cannot have his flank turned, cannot be outgeneralled, but put him where you will, he stands."
Albert Pike found in the Ashlar symbolism a picture of the true state. "The Rough Ashlar is the people, as a mass, rude and unorganised. The Perfect Ashlar, cubical stone, symbol of perfection, is the State, the rules deriving their powers from the consent of the governed; the constitution and the laws speaking the will of the people; the government harmonious, symmetrical, efficient—its powers properly distributed and duly adjusted in equilibrium." If a man objects that nowhere does such a social Perfect Ashlar exist, Masonry might make reply in the words of the late Josiah Royce, our noble apostle of the Gospel of Loyalty: "I believe in the beloved community and in the spirit which makes it beloved, and in the communion of all who are, in will and in deed, its members. I see no such community as yet; but none the less my rule of life is: Act so as to hasten its coming." This is a great truth greatly said, and as Masonic as it is true.
These interpretations of the Ashlar may seem to differ, but they harmonise one with another, like the parts of a fitly framed building. When the Fellow Craft adjusts himself to that which is above him by the Plumb; to that which is about him by the Level; and when he rightly
adjusts the Plumb to the Level with the Square, he will make a Perfect Ashlar of himself; and when once thus made he will be ready to be fitted into the Great Temple of the Supreme Architect whose will is the genius of Masonry.