The 6 Jewels of Masonry
and are they movable or immovable?
In the Entered apprentice degree we are taught that there are 6 Jewels of Masonry.
The Rough Ashlar
The Perfect Ashlar
The Trestle Board.
We are taught that the first 3 are immovable and intern the last three are moveable. This is pretty much the standard around the United States, but while reading a book titled “The Etiquette of Freemasonry” by an Old Past Master published in 1890, i discovered something quite different. It seems that in Great Britain and els ware around the globe these jewels are reversed as to their movability. This made be curious and wanting to know why it wasn't a uniform similarity.
Lets take the first 3 to start. The Square, Level, and the Plumb. These three are the principle icons in our lodge. We see them at every meeting. They are what govern the Lodge. Our Ritual says that the Square teaches us morality, the Level equality, and the Plumb the Rectitude of life. (Rectitude of life? Now this caught me by surprise as to what it means. Come to find out it means to be morally and Judgmentally straight in the course of ones life.) It says that they are always found and worn by the brethren stations in the East, West and South. Thus they are immovable due to the fact that they are always at their respective stations.
The Etiquette of Freemasonry though describes these three in a somewhat similar but very different manner. The Book States “They are called the movable jewels because they are worn by the Master, Senior, and Junior Wardens during their tenure of their several offices, and are transferred to their successors on the day of installation. The collars bearing these several jewels should be placed upon the pedestals, respectively, of the Master and the Wardens, Previously to the opening of the Lodge.” Now needless to say this struck me as odd, due to the fact that basically they are saying the same thing but for some reason interpret it differently.
Now lets look at the second 3 Jewels. The Rough Ashlar, Perfect Ashlar, and Trestle Board. These three we only hear about in the states and never really see them unless we move through the degrees of the Hall of the York Rite. There you see them used during certain lessons taught in certain degrees. In blue lodge there is made mention of the Trestle board in the 3rd degree but no further expiration is given.
In our ritual they are explained thus. The Rough Ashlar is the stone taken from the quarry in its rude and natural state. The perfect Ashlar is that stone prepared by the workmen to be adjusted by the working tools of the Fellow Craft, and the Trestle Board for the Master to draw his designs upon. The rough ashlar represents our imperfect state by nature, the perfect ashlar that state of perfection that we hope to arrive by our own endeavors and the blessing of God, and as the operative erects his temporal building according to the rules and designs laid down by the Master workman in the designs upon his trestle board, so should we both operative and speculative endeavor to erect our spiritual building according to the Rules and design laid down by the GAOTU in the Great books of nature and revelation, which are our moral, masonic, and spiritual, trestle board.
Now lets look at what the book says. “They are called the immovable jewels because they lie open and unmoved, each in its appointed place in the Lodge, for the brethren to Memorialize upon.’ Now thats quite different then what ours says. It seems that overseas these three jewels are actually in the lodge at all times. The Trestle Board or ‘tracing boards’ had and still do have a place in a lot of lodges both over seas and at home. The older ones are canvas cloths for each degree with the various symbols on them for each degree and they are laid out on the flood during the degree. We have one for the Fellow Craft degree. Washington and Eastern Star Lodge has older ones that display all three degrees, and the newer versions of these are basically a poster for each degree that is framed and hung on the wall. Oxford Lodge has all three of these framed and hanging in the north wall of their lodge. The Rough Ashlar is placed on the floor in front of the Junior Wardens Pedestal. The Perfect ashlar’s position should be immediately in front of the Senior Warden’s pedestal, properly suspended , with the lewis inserted in the centre.
Now the question is, Who is right? Us or the English?, or crazy thought are we both right. In asking some people smarter than myself it is of a general concuss that we actually have the older ritual. It would seem that when the Ancients and the Moderns split into 2 Grand Lodges in England in the 1720’s had everyone trying to figure out what was right and proper. By the time they came back together freemasonry was already well underway in the colonies. Set with their own traditions and understandings, but who is right? I personally feel it is in the manner in which you view them. I think they are both right and just got the interpretation of them for each jurisdiction set in a different way to where they are today.
I feel that if you look at them in 2 different ways all six can be either Movable or immovable. Let me explain. If you look at them all merely at a materialistic object that is meant to convey a lesson then they are all immovable jewels. Each meant to relay a message to the Brother observing it. The First three he should look upon as reminders as to how he should act amongst his brethren and his fellow man. That he should live by a high moral code, meet his brethren and fellow man on an equal level as to not make one feel inferior to the other, and that even though we may go astray, we should alway try to keep on that straight path of Morality and Judgement. When he views the next three he may contemplate on many things about himself. When he looks upon the rough ashlar, he may be reminded of his fixable imperfection and superfluities of life, so that he can continue to work upon those rough imperfections until he can smooth them out and be able to control them in his daily life. These imperfections could range from numerous things such as anger, frustration with others, intemperance to things such as Alcohol abuse or gluttony. Then he move on to observe the Perfect Ashlar. To where he may meditate as to how he has changed since his time in the craft and can reflect on how he has become a better man for his God, Family, Neighbor, community, and himself. He can also reflect on that ultimate goal of what he wants to become, that state of perfection which one cannot reach without the blessings of God. Finally he may look upon the Tracing board to be reminded of all the Moral Lessons and symbolic teaching of the first three degrees. In this State these Jewels are only meant for reflection and contemplation and are there for immovable in their stations with in the lodge.
Now Lets look at it from a different angle. What if each is applied to the Human body as an outward extension of himself. The Rough Ashlar would be the state of himself at the time he entered into and became an Entered Apprentice of the Lodge. A Profane as some call. An uneducated man searching for that light that will make him a better man. That Perfect Ashlar would be the same Man 50 years in the future, after spending much time with his brethren in lodge and educating himself in the teachings of the craft. He can look back and see what he has become. What type of better man he has turned out to be. Then you have the trestle board. Which if you apply it to your mind as a living stone for that house not made of hand eternal in the heavens, you can take all the lessons and symbols of masonry use them to become better connected with your god. In both thought and action. This then brings us to the Square, Level, and the Plumb, and while they teach us valuable lessons, they can also be seen as milestones for each of us in our attainment of more light in masonry. Each one of us when we have attained that station in the lodge we could look at it has having achieved that knowledge that is needed to fulfill that station. We can also look at is at a teaching tool that when the next brother takes over that position that we have educated him enough that he will be a suitable replacement for us when pass that emblem or badge of knowledge on to him. Thus these looked upon in this light we can see that they are movable and ever-changing in each of us. constantly evolving trying to achieve that perfection in ourselves and others.
Thus is my argument as to why i feel that they are both right, it is just a matter of perception and understanding. I personally feel that we should bring the rest of the Jewels back into the lodge as well as other symbols so that we may look and reflect upon them for the deeper meanings that each one holds. The Great Albert Pike said that every symbol in masonry has more than one meaning, and the newly made mason is only taught the most obvious meaning. This is because it is up to each brother to find the greater meaning in each through his constant study and understanding of the craft.
Anthony Hurr PM
Hugh L. Bates Lodge 686 F&AM Ohio