Iowa Freemasonry is a personal journal of a Freemason in central Iowa. This blog documents my Masonic research interests, experiences, and reflections. Welcome!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Perfect Ashlar as Deity

Here is another section of my paper on the symbolism of the Ashlar-

Perfect Ashlar as Deity
In this interpretation the perfect ashlar represents God. The Judeo-Christian tradition is rich with imagery realted to stones and the Bible contains frequent allusions to stones of all shapes and sizes. In the Old Testament, I Kings chapters 5 and 7 contain the most direct references to ashlars. The New Internation version refers to blocks of quality or high-grade stone (475, 477 NIV Study Bible) while the New American Standard version prefers the terms great and costly (456, 459). Neither translation contains the word ashlar, although it is found in the NIV Bible Commentary. (NIV Bible Commentary).

In Daniel 2:34 and Matthew 21:44 , the generic term “stone” is employed in a messianic sense (NIv Bible Commentary, Daniel 2:34 and Matt 21:44). In Matthew 21:42, Jesus quotes the Psalms in pointing to himself as the capstone which has been rejected. The Letter to the Ephesians, First Corinthians, and First Peter all employ the stone metaphor with Jesus as a cornerstone or living stone.

Ashlar symbolism discussed in this paper primarily relates to Blue Lodge Freemasonry. “All Masonry starts there,” according to Jim Tresner, author of Further Light: Helpful Information for New Master Masons (p. 29). However, the perfect ashlar as deity is an interpretation primarily from outside of the first three degrees of Freemasonry. An example of this view is found in The Royal Order of Scotland, an invitational Masonic organization. Arthur Heiron writes in the Ars Quatuor Coronatorum that the Royal Order of Scotland “…Assigns the highest honour…” to the perfect ashlar. It represents “The Great Architect of the Church who called himself the Rose of Sharon and the Lily of the Valley.”

One encounters general references to God throughout Freemasonry. The ritual itself focuses our attention on the infinite through historical allusion, physical actions, and direct quotations from the Holy Bible. Moreover, some Masonic authors have argued that these symbols and emblems of deity serve a primary goal of the Fraternity: reverence and veneration of God. (Pike 137) However, if God is omnipotent, then to what extent can we attain knowledge of Him through our own efforts? In a recent article, Masonic scholar Robert G. Davis discusses this problematic nature of God:

... there is really only one enduring characteristic of God; and that is that God cannot be defined. God is a symbol; a mystery, a hieroglyph, a metaphor. Of God, there is understanding, reason, knowledge, touch, perception, imagination, name, and many other things. But God is not understood, nothing can be said of It, It cannot be named. It is not one of the things which is.

The symbols found in Freemasonry teach us about our relationship to God and as we study these common, concrete objects, such as the ashlar, we gain insight into fundamental questions. This task requires work, however, to “mine beneath the surface” of what superficially appears to be a simple stone block (pike 136). Working through such symbols, we can approach topics that have baffled men for centuries.

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