Image of the Month

Chalk, Charcoal, and Clay

posted Mar 2, 2013, 4:57 PM by Kurt Gazow   [ updated Apr 7, 2013, 8:14 AM ]

By these three substances are beautifully symbolized the three qualifications for the servitude of an Entered Apprentice---freedom, fervency, and zeal. Chalk is the freest of all substances, because the slightest touch leaves a trace behind. Charcoal, the most fervent, because to it, when ignited, the most obdurate metals yield; and Clay, the most zealous, because it is constantly employed in man's service, and is as constantly reminding us that from it we all came, and to it we must all return. In the earlier lectures of the eighteenth century, the symbols, with the same interpretation, were given as Chalk, Charcoal, and Earthen Pan.

- Source: Mackey's Encyclopedia of Freemasonry

The Beehive

posted Nov 5, 2012, 4:30 PM by Kurt Gazow

The Masonic Beehive

In our Twentieth Century America, the word "industry" denotes manufacturing and factories classified as heavy industry and light industry; and connote machines and factory workers. When the Beehive is said to be an emblem of industry the word is not used in that sense, indeed, is used with an almost opposite meaning-for it is used in the sense of centuries ago, which was the true sense.

Industry was the employment of a very large number of men, tens of thousands in many instances, on one undertaking at one place and at the same time, and they might or might not use machinery. It was the method by which in the ages before heavy machinery vast building enterprises were accomplished, some of which have so long mystified modern men, the building of the pyramids, of the ancient Egyptian canals, of the hanging gardens of Babylon, of the Ziggurats, of vast Hindu temples, of the Chinese Great Wall and Grand canal of the Mayas' City of Chichen-Itza, etc. the same method by which in World War II the Burma and Ledo roads were constructed as well as great airfields in the remote hills of China; and the method by which from Caesar's time until modern times the Dutch have built their hundreds of miles of dykes. The Beehive is the perfect emblem, or typical instance of the power of industry, because what no one bee'or succession of separate bees could accomplish is easy where hundreds of them work together at one task at one time.

The Medieval Freemasons did not study and think about ¨he same subjects that architects and builders now except in fundamentals, did not secure the elements of a building ready-made from factories, had no steam or electric or magnetic tools to use; chemistry and physics were forbidden sciences, and could be studied by the initiate only in secret or under a heavy camouflage of symbolism. They had two great subjects: materials and men. A modern architect knows far more about materials than the Medieval builder because he has universities, literature, laboratories, and factories to draw on; but he knows far less about men, indeed, he knows almost nothing about men.

Where a modern builder looks to machines as the means to accomplish his results, the Medieval builder who had no power-driven machines had to look to men. For this reason the Medieval builder knew far more about work than his modern counterpart because work is nothing other than a man making use of himself as a means to get something made or produced or accomplished. Where a modern foreman thinks of himself as a supervisor of a building full of machines the Medieval foreman thought of himself as a Master of workmen. By the same token a workman had to know himself, instead of a machine, because he was his own machine. Skill is the expert use of one's self.

It was for such reasons that Medieval Freemasons thought much about and had a wide knowledge of the forms of work. There are some fifty-two of these.

Industry itself is one of them, the most massive and most dramatic, but not the most important. Where a man makes everything by himself from the raw materials to the finished product, is another. Where a number of men work in a line at the same bench and where the first does one thing to the "job, " the second does another, and so on until the "job" is completed by the last man, so that it is the job and not the men who move, is another form of work. Where one man completes one thing, another, perhaps in another place, completes another, and so on, and where finally a man combines a number of completed things to make one thing, is another form of work; etc., etc.

The general organization of a Lodge is based on the principle of forms of work; so are the stations and places of officers. Though as an emblem of the form of work called industry the Beehive symbolizes only one in Particular it at the same time represents the system of forms of work, is, as it were, an ensemble of them; and from it a sufficiently well-informed thinker could think out the system of Masonic Philosophy. In our Craft the whole of fraternalism is nothing other than the fellowship required by the forms of work, because the majority of them require men to work together in association, in stations and places, and therefore in co-operation.

It is strange that in its present-day stage of development the so-called science of economics should concern itself solely with such subjects as wages, machines, money, transportation because these are but incidentals and accidentals. Work is the topic proper to economics; and the forms of work are its proper subject-matter. Any scholar or thinker who chances to be a Mason could find in his own Fraternity a starting point for a new economics, as fresh and revolutionary and revealing as was the work of Copernicus in astronomy, of Newton in physics, of Darwin in biology. A beehive itself is a trifle, and scarcely worth ten minutes of thought; what it stands for is one of the largest and most important subjects in the world, and up until now one of the least understood.

Source: Mackey's Encyclopedia of Freemasonry

The Compasses

posted Dec 23, 2011, 11:19 AM by Kurt Gazow   [ updated Dec 24, 2011, 11:35 AM ]

As in Operative Freemasonry, the compasses are used for the measurement of the architect’s plans, and to enable him to give those just proportions which will ensure beauty as well as stability to his work; so, in Speculative Freemasonry, is this important implement symbolic of that even tenor of deportment, that true standard of rectitude which alone can bestow happiness here and felicity hereafter. Hence are the compasses the most prominent emblem of virtue, the true and only measure of a Freemason’s life and conduct. As the Bible gives us light on our duties to God, and the square illustrates our duties to our neighbor and Brother, so the compasses give that additional light, which is to instruct us in the duty we owe to ourselves—the great, imperative duty of circumscribing our passions, and keeping our desires within due bounds. "It is ordained," says the philosopher Burke, "in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate passions cannot be free; their passions forge their fetters." Those Brethren who delight to trace our emblems to an astronomical origin, find in the compasses a symbol of the sun, the circular pivot representing the body of the luminary, and the diverging legs his rays.
In the earliest rituals of the eighteenth century, the compasses are described as a part of the furniture of the Lodge, and are said to belong to the Master. Some change will be found in this respect in the ritual of the present day (see Square and Compasses).
The word is sometimes spelled and pronounced compass, which is more usually applied to the magnetic needle and circular dial or card of the mariner, from which he directs his course over the seas, or the similar guide of the airman when seeking his destination, across unknown territory.

Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, vol i. Albert Mackey. 1966. . p. 236. Image from Hiram, Gustavo Raffi, Direttore. n. 4/2002 Rivista del Grande Oriente d'Italia. Erasmo Editore, Roma. p. 32.

The Common Gavel

posted Oct 2, 2011, 1:46 PM by Kurt Gazow

Freemasons have two gavels.

One is the Master’s gavel, symbol of authority that must be wisely used to preserve harmony within the Lodge. The other is the working tool of the Entered Apprentice.

In either sense the gavel is of ancient origin and honour- able history. As a symbol of authority, the gavel always has ruled deliberative assemblies. From the gathering of a neighborhood sewing club to legislatures, congresses, supreme courts, presidents and monarchs, the gavel brings order and obedience.

Handing the gavel to another transfers for the time the authority of the one who originally wielded it. A Master of a Lodge is an autocrat while in possession of his gavel. The Grand Master does not actually take over a Lodge until the Master yields his gavel.

Our other gavel, that of the Entered Apprentice, is for the workmen to employ in their labours. It approaches in importance the gavel of authority. In one sense it is as important as the other gavel, for no Master may open a Lodge unless workmen are present. He cannot be suc- cessful in his conduct of the Lodge and his supervision of the work unless the workmen are willing ones. He cannot drive them to their labours, autocratic as his powers may be, even when they are there at his bidding or summons.

The Master’s term in office, his supervision of the work, must all fail unless the workmen are interested in their labours, unless they have pride in the kind of work they present for inspection, unless each workman is able to envision the completed work and voluntarily uses his gavel to produce a finished ashlar of service, that ashlar to either support or surmount the perfect ashlars of other brethren. 

[Credit] Oct 2011 Masonic Bulletin, Grand Lodge, British Columbian & Yukon; Excerpted from 3-5-7 Minute Talks on Freemasonry by Elbert Bede

The Baal's Bridge Square

posted Apr 30, 2011, 9:31 AM by Kurt Gazow

Next to the apron, the Square and Compasses are one of the most publicly recognizable symbols of Freemasonry, recognized the world over.  In operative Masonry, the square was used as a device to square their work.  Known as a 'trying square', it typically had a plain surface, its legs used to test the accuracy of the sides of a stone, and to see that its edges subtend the same angle.  

Different speculative Masonic traditions have seen evolutions in the design and adornment of the square  French Masonic Lodges have extended the length of one leg, emulating a carpenters square; lodges in the US and Canada have added graduations of measurement. [1]

A Square also happens to be one of the oldest items of Freemasonry in the world. One of these artifacts from the beginnings of Freemasonry is found in present-day Ireland.  Warrant no.13 was issued to ‘Antient Union Lodge’ in Limerick, on the 22nd November 1732. However, this date only coincides with a time when records began for Antient Union Lodge 13.

Lodge 13 have in their archives a old brass square that was found under the foundations of Baals Bridge. This Square dated 1507 is reputed to be one of the earliest Masonic items in the world.

The old brass square, known as the Baal’s Bridge Square, was recovered from the foundations of Baal’s Bridge in Limerick when the bridge was being rebuilt in 1830. It is inscribed “I WILL STRIVE TO LIVE WITH LOVE AND CARE UPON THE LEVEL BY THE SQUARE” and bears the date, 1507.  You can also see a heart in the center.

This ancient Square, carefully treasured by Lodge 13 is recorded as being presented to Brother Michael Furnell,  Provincial Grand Master, by Brother James Pain, (referred to as the Provincial Grand Architect).  In the Freemasons’ Quarterly Review, 1842, p. 288, Bro. Furnell, under the date of 27th. August, 1842, printed a short note on this relic of antiquity, accompanying which is a facsimile sketch. 

He says that Bro. Pain, in 1830, had been contractor for re-building Baals Bridge in Limerick, and on taking down the old structure, he discovered under the foundation stone at the English town side, this old brass square, much eaten away. In the facsimile sketch, Bro, Furnell puts the date as 1517, which is a mistake, as the square bears the date 1507. A heart appears in each angle.

James Pain, a distinguished architect, was born at Isleworth in 1779. He and his brother, George R, Pain, entered into partnership, subsequently settling in Ireland, where James resided in Limerick and George in Cork. They designed and built a number of churches and glebe houses. Mitchelstown Castle, the magnificent seat of the Earls of Kingston, was the largest and best of their designs. They were also architects of Cork Court-house and the County Gaol, both very striking erections, and of Dromoland Castle, the seat of Lord Inchiquin. James Pain died in Limerick 13th. December, 1877, in his 98th year, and was buried in the cathedral church of St. Mary in that city.” [2]

The Rough Ashlar

posted Apr 14, 2011, 1:12 PM by Kurt Gazow   [ updated Apr 20, 2011, 7:10 PM ]

"In some Masonic jurisdictions, ashlars are used as a symbolic metaphor for progress. A rough ashlar is a stone as taken directly from the quarry, and allegorically represents the Freemason prior to his initiation..." [1]
"Of particular importance to the Fellowcraft Degree are the Rough and Perfect Ashlars, two stones marking a path for self-improvement for the initiate. The lessons outlined in this degree rely upon many symbols concerning education and the gaining of knowledge as a means of advancing, both morally and spiritually. However, there are other lessons to be gained by examining the stones themselves, notably the Rough Ashlar.

An "ashlar" is a rough stone taken from a quarry with the intent of preparing it for use in construction of a building. Its shape is that of a plank or rectangular solid, which would allow its use for paving or exterior construction. In olden times these stones were from "freestone," which meant sandstone or limestone, which could be shaped easily into smooth blocks or other forms. It was the refining and smoothing that shaped these rough stones into their final form and thus "fitted them for the builder's use."

For the Freemason, the Rough Ashlar represents his rough state in life and the need for improvement. He is made aware as a Fellowcraft of the goal of being a better man, being more spiritual in his thoughts, and striving for perfection in conduct. A path is laid before him and he is charged to work toward self-improvement. Duties, obligations, and expectations are clearly placed in his hands to work toward a better life. He is taught to "smooth" himself, both externally and internally, and become a true Mason. We, as Brothers, have a duty to ourselves and to our Brother to teach and help each to become better men and Masons.

There are other messages contained within the Rough Ashlar. There are the internal messages concerning the quality, potential, and character of the stone. The stone must be of good quality and possess the potential to be a "perfect" stone in its use. It must have no flaws of character, which may cause it to weaken in its purpose or use. Thus, when we look at a candidate for the degrees, we should look carefully at their qualifications and character. The candidate must be of sound quality and have the potential to serve and support our Fraternity. He must be carefully inspected, as the Rough Ashlar, in order that he "fit" in the design of Freemasonry, its tenets, and goals. Just as one bad stone could ruin the exterior of a building, or weaken the overall structure, so one flawed Rough Ashlar can bring censure and reproach upon the Fraternity, and thus weaken Freemasonry in the eyes of the outer world.

Hence there are three goals represented in the Rough Ashlar. One goal is for us as Masons, one goal is for the Lodge, and one goal is for the initiate. As Masons we must give due attention to our responsibility in educating our Brothers in self-improvement. As a Lodge, we must judge carefully in extending Freemasonry to others, weighing their potential and character as Masons, for they are the future of the Craft. And finally we must extend the hand of Brotherly Love and Affection in order that they may attain their place as "just and upright Masons." Attention to the Rough Ashlar is critical to our future and we should act accordingly."[2]

[2]: The Grand Lodge of Texas

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