Esoteric Consideration of the Perfect Ashlar

David D. Mavity, MM

 In our Entered Apprentice lecture, we are presented with, and likened to, two of our Moveable Jewels, the Rough Ashlar and the Perfect Ashlar. The Rough Ashlar is described as “a stone as taken from the quarry in its rude and natural state.” It symbolizes every one of us, as natural, imperfect men.

 

The Perfect Ashlar, by contrast, is explained as “a stone made by the hands of the workman to be adjusted by the Working Tools of the Fellow Craft.” It symbolizes a state of perfection theoretically achieved by the Master Mason, realistically achieved by few men.

 

After our Initiation, we are placed, as a building stone in the traditional position for cornerstone placement by Operative Masons- the North- East corner. This is symbolic of our Masonic “birth,” and has a further allusion as to our relative exposure to Masonic Light: partly in the Light of the East, and partly in the darkness of the North, but at this stage, still mostly in the dark.

 

Typical of Masonic symbolism, this is a relatively clear, almost self- explanatory, almost obvious allegory; even more typical, however,is that there is more meaning, if we wish to explore this symbol further.

 

What is the actual meaning of this perfection, which we symbolize by, essentially, a polished rock? How does it manifest? Where can it be found?

 

At this point, a brief explanation of the Hebrew alphabet as used in mysticism may be necessary for those not familiar with some of its more curious characteristics:

 

First, the aleph-bet is descended from a hieroglyphic alphabet. Each letter name is a word, and each has its obvious word meaning. Kabalistically, each letter also has a hidden meaning.

 

According to the “Sefer Yetsirah,” (the Book of Formation, one of the oldest Kabalistic texts) unlike modern languages, which use their characters only to form words for written and oral communication, the Hebrew alphabet is considered to be alive. Not alive in the sense of a living or dead language, but alive in the sense that each character represents a living component “spark” of Spirit/matter, and any combination in the form of a word, or phrase to be a representation of an actual creation composed of that Spirit/matter. 1.

 

Think of this alphabet as an ancient, Hebrew, spiritual Periodic Table of the Elements, and Hebrew words as a sort of spiritual molecular chain.

 

Stone, and finished stone in particular, is an ancient symbol of perfection, common to many Mystery systems. Two of the systems worth discussing that rely on this symbol heavily are Kabala and Alchemy , both of which, arguably, have contributed to our own Masonic Tradition.

 

Kabala has several variants, including the traditional Hebrew system, and the so-called Hermetic system, which combines large portions of the traditional system with other disciplines such as Astrology, Alchemy, Tarot, etc..

 

Esoteric Alchemy is a tradition that uses chemical allegory to “transmute base metals into Gold,” in the same way we, as Masons, use stone- working allegory to “build the Temple.”

 

In Hebrew, the word for stone is “e-ven”, spelled Aleph-Beth-Nun in Hebrew characters, the equivalent of ABN in English. This particular word for stone implies building stone in a finished state, or, a Perfect Ashlar.

 

The word ‘bn has some peculiar attributes when submitted to the process of esoteric analysis:

 

-The first two letters, Aleph and Beth, taken together spell ‘av- “Father.”

-The last two letters, Beth and Nun, spell ben- “Son.”

 

The implication of this word, when taken in this sense as a symbol of perfection, is the unification of the father, ‘av, and the son, ben. In many Christian mystical systems, this is how Christ’s words, ”The Father and I are one,” are interpreted.   It implies unobstructed conscious union of the human spirit with G-d and the realization of their Identity as a unified whole.

 

Most importantly, understand that this state of union with Divinity is not something we work to achieve; it is already established, we work to discover it through education, expansion of intellect, and subduing of passions.

  

Further analysis may be made of this word by an analytical technique known as Notarikon. Notarikon is the art of reading a Hebrew word, not as a communicative sound or symbol, but as graphic statements of interacting principles. Letters are read as words and /or phrases, combining the traditional hidden meanings of the Hebrew letters, which are strung together in order in the form of an equation. The meanings, both exoteric and esoteric, of the letters for ABN are as follows:

 

Aleph:

 

Exoteric: “ox” or “bull.”

Esoteric: pure power and force, mastery, the Ain Soph Aur of the Kabbalists, the Limitless Light or L.V.X. of the Hermetists, or G-d as Pure Pressure and Force.

 

Beth:

 

Exoteric:“house”

Esoteric: manifestation, establishment, internalization, form, body, to embrace or to pair.

 

Nun:

Exoteric: as a verb, “to propagate” or “to reproduce.”

Esoteric: potentiality, display, and implementation.

 

When the hidden meanings of these letters are combined into the word for stone, this particular type of analysis gives us several similar conclusions:

-The life Force paired with its display

-A compacted formulation of potentiality

-Principle interiorized for purpose

 

All these give the same basic message as the first analysis- the realization of the Divine captured within man and man as individualized, unified, physical emanations of Deity.

Again, not the establishment of this state, but a realization of its necessary pre-existence.

 

Gematria is another analytical technique which is a helpful tool, although it is greatly misunderstood and often erroneously thrown in to the category of “numerology.”

In Hebrew, and in ancient Greek, each letter of the alphabet is also a number. By taking the combined numerical value of a word, comparisons may be made and contemplated between different words and concepts.

 

The numerical value of this word for stone, e-ven, is 53. Knowing that, we have made a mental connection between this word, and any other word that adds to the same number. A few words that also add to 53, as given in the first five books of the Old Testament:

 

-Genesis: “stone,” “garden,”” I do bring,” “and he became great.”

-Exodus: “and was content,” “I will utterly.”

-Leviticus: “her produce.”

-Numbers: “the host.”

-Deuteronomy: “ we shall come,” “the great,” “wealth.”

 

Keep in mind that the conceptual relationships made by any given individual tend to be personal, and derived through contemplation and meditation, so deeper spiritual connections between these words must be made by individually. No two people will interpret these exactly the same way.

 

In Alchemical texts, and in some European Masonic Tradition, there appears another peculiar word: V.I.T.R.I.O.L.. Exoterically, when written as a word in lower case, vitriol is chemical slang for sulphuric acid, or sulpher salts, which, curiously enough, are used in Operative Masonry for preparing a stone surface for a smooth application of aggregate or stucco.

 

Written in capitals, each letter punctuated by periods, this word takes on a much deeper significance.. It is an acronym for the Latin phrase: “Visita Interiora Terrae Refectificando Invenies Ocultam Lapidem.” Translation: Visit the Interior of the Earth, and Rectifying (i.e. purifying) you will find the Hidden Stone.

 

The meaning of “Earth” here is of particular Masonic interest. It requires us to make use of the Hermetic axiom, “ That which is Above is as that which is Below, and that which is Below is as that which is Above.” Simply put, the Universe is arranged in such a way that there is always a correspondence between the laws and phenomena of the various planes of Being and Life. It is the basic theory of life existing in Macrocosm and Microcosm, and is an endless two way process, with every “Macro” a relative “Micro” to that above it, and every “Micro” the “Macro” of that below.

 

In this case, the Lodge Room, or Temple, represents the planet Earth, macrocosmically. A quick look at the Old Testament account of the Temple “furniture” will affirm this to the more contemplative- minded, and a thoughtful look at a modern Lodge Room and Ritual will yield some of the same results.

 

Microcosmically, the Lodge Room represents us, individually: in proportion, in symbolism, as a microcosm of the Earth. This is the Earth we are encouraged to “visit,” our interior center. This interior center is the human heart, or the Point within the Circle, and at this center, we find and purify the “hidden Stone”; the ABN of the Kabbalists, the Philosopher’s Stone of the Alchemists, and the Perfect Ashlar of Freemasonry.

 

Additionally, Alchemy gives a technique, veiled in allegory, for this discovery and purification of the stone. While the language of this discipline is incredibly rich in symbolism, it can be very hard to follow, and is made even more confusing by its mixture of chemical and astronomical terms. In Alchemical texts, we can variously read, “Integrate Gold and Silver, by the use of Mercury,” “The Sun and the Moon, with the aid of Mercury,” and “Salt and Sulpher, dissolved with the Universal Solvent.”  All refer to the conscious act of perfection by internally reconciling Duality- balancing Dark with Light, Female with Male, Negative with Positive, Inertia with Fury. Regardless of terminology, all result in the discovery of the “hidden stone.” One of the beauties of our esoteric Masonic system is that all these allegories and symbols, from Kabalistic, Hermetic, and Alchemical systems, can be found in all three of our Degrees, by “those who have ears to hear.”

***

At the lintel of the entrance to the Temple of Apollo at Delphi were inscribed the words, “Gnothi Seauton”- Know Thyself.  This working and polishing of the Rough Ashlar to achieve the state of the Perfect Ashlar is an internal process of self- discovery and knowledge.

By discovering the True Self, we come to an understanding of our Creator, where He dwells, and what He desires. We learn of our true relationship with Deity- one of Unity, as co- creators within the plan on His Trestle- Board; and of Unity with our fellow man, and through this discovery, we learn to act accordingly towards G-d, each other, and ourselves.

 

1.Sefer Yetsirah, chapter 2:

“Twenty- two foundation letters. He ordained them, He hewed them, He combined them, He weighed them, He interchanged them. And he created with them the whole Creation and everything to be created in the future.”

 

“He formed substance out of chaos and made nonexistence into existence. Carved great pillars out of air that cannot be grasped. This is the sign: one forsees, transposes, and makes all creation and all words with one Name. And a sign of this: twenty- two objects in a single body.

 

 

 

         

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