Friday, September 10, 2010
Albert Pike and Ashlar Symbolism
Pike’s Analysis of the Ashlar as State
Albert Pike developed a unique interpretation of the Rough and Perfect Ashlars, especially from my personal perspective as an American Government teacher. He argues that the Rough Ashlar represents the people: a mass- disorganized and rude. The Perfect Ashlar, according to Pike, represents the State and the key characteristics which support it. In Pike’s analysis, the Ashlar takes the form of a cube.
As one looks at a cube, three faces are visible and three are hidden. The three visible faces of the cube, or Perfect Ashlar, represent the three departments of state, better known today as the three branches of government found in the first three Articles of the U.S. Constitution: the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial branches. The three faces of the cube which are not visible represent liberty, equality, and fraternity. In his book Morals and Dogma, Pike refers to the invisible faces as the “threefold soul of the state- its vitality, spirit, and intellect.”
Pike theorizes that a stable cube, and a stable state, require all six of these concepts. Moreover, it is the Mason’s duty, as a citizen, to apply his tools to the Ashlar in order to improve the state.
Pike’s interpretation corresponds with the historical and the conceptual nature of Freemasonry in eighteenth century America. Members of the Craft were leaders and active participants in early American political institutions. According to Allen E. Roberts, Freemasons include thirteen of the men who debated, wrote, and signed the U.S. Constitution, nine who signed the Declaration of Independence, and ten who drafted and signed the Articles of Confederation. The Continental Congress served as our first government from 1774 through 1789; four of its Presidents were Freemasons. Steven Bullock writes in his book, Revolutionary Brotherhood: Freemasonry and the transformation of the American Social Order , 1730 - 1840, that "...at least 42 percent of the generals commissioned by the Continental Congress were or would become Freemasons." Bullock continues:
The impact of military Masonry, however, went beyond the officers' individual sensations. Fraternal ties among the officers helped create and sustain the sense of common purpose necessary for the survival of the Continental army- and thus the winning of the war.
Moreover, at a conceptual level, Freemasonry demands of its members civic involvement, dedication to community, and commitment to democratic government. Pike’s understanding of the Ashlar solidifies the relationship between our Fraternity and our responsibilities as citizens.