Esoteric Consideration of the
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
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
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:
Exoteric: “ox” or
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.
manifestation, establishment, internalization, form, body, to embrace
or to pair.
Exoteric: as a verb,
“to propagate” or “to reproduce.”
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
-A compacted formulation of
-Principle interiorized for
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
-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
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
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.