Bro. Jon Patrick Sage
As we were taught in the Entered Apprentice degree, a Lodge has six jewels, three of which are immovable, and three of which are moveable. Resting at the base of the Senior Warden’s station is one of the moveable Jewels, the Perfect Ashlar. This stone represents “that state of perfection at which we hope to arrive…” The Perfect Ashlar, in a historical and Operative definition, is actually, anything but perfect; specifically, it is an oblong, made up of different dimensions. It is therefore not a squared and/or perfect stone.
This form has basis in Operative Masonry. At The Masonic Trowel [i], as well as in the general history of stonework, what we would today call a “Perfect Ashlar” was, in past days, referred to as a “Perpend Ashlar”. This was because of the style of construction, namely that of walls that consisted of a double row of stones, tied together as the structure rose, at certain intervals, by “cross‐tie” stones.
As explained in the Freemason’s Guide and Compendium, if the Perfect Ashlars, being square, represented the four cardinal virtues- Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence, and Justice, then the Perpend (i.e., ‘perpent’, ‘perpin’, ashlar, or ‘achillar,’ the ‘perpendester’)[ii], were thought to represent the Great Architect of the Church/Universe, as called ‘The Rose of Sharon’ and the ‘Lily of the Valley’[iii].
The stones, usually three units long and one unit square in cross-section, were suitable for finishing as a running stone, often called a header. These header ashlars were laid with the longest side spanning the two courses of stone, and the thinnest dimension resting vertically/perpendicular, with the word then evolving from perpend-icular (perpend-ashillar), into “Perpend”.
This Perpend Ashlar effectively wove the other stones in the wall together, causing them to act in unison and harmony with one another.
In this manner, we should all strive to make our Ashlars perfect for two reasons. First, that the Perfect Ashlar of an individual Mason will enhance and make strong his personal moral and Masonic edifice; and secondly, that the Perfect Ashlar of a Speculative Mason, will act as the Perpend Ashlar of the Operative Mason, helping to bind our Institution as a whole, and make strong the Fraternity in perpetuity.
[iii] The Holy Bible, Solomon 2:1, http://www.morelightinmasonry.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/holy-bible-eng.pdf