Working Tools

by WB Steve Osborn

SINCE that evening you first stood in the NE corner of the Lodge, you have been presented with many working tools, from the twenty-four inch gauge and common gavel to the instruments that help us to understand the universe and guide our way by the stars. You have heard many lectures on them and their uses, but how much thought do we give to them? How many of us have watched a sculptor at work, for instance? He takes a piece of wood, or a block of stone and studies it. Finally, he finds the key to release the beauty in it and he begins to work. He starts out with crude tools, an axe and an adz, or a course stone splitting chisel and mallet and begins trimming away big chunks, pausing every once in a while to consider, then continuing to hack and hew. Eventually, a blocky form begins to emerge, recognizable even to the casual viewer. Then he begins to use finer tools, draw knife, framing chisels or finer stone chisels with lighter, more manageable mallets for finer control. The actual image begins to form. The sculptor now works slower and more carefully. As the figure becomes more distinct, the sculptor picks yet finer tools, until he is working with fine chisels, carving knives, spokeshaves and sandpaper, or the equivalent in stone working tools. Finally, the sculptor steps back and before him is the figure which, at the outset, only he could see, but is now revealed to all our eyes. To the sculptor, it is no great feat, but to us it is akin to magic. Leonardo is reputed to have answered the question as to how he carved a particular piece from a block of marble. “I simply remove all of the stone that doesn’t look like an elephant.” Simple for him, nearly impossible for us. We are to a great degree, the tools in the hands of the GˆAˆOˆTˆUˆ, but we are self-acting tools, so we have more responsibility. We receive direction from our teachings, our reading, our ritual, but it is up to us to perfect that rough ashlar. We must keep ourselves sharp and learn to strike true. We must learn to recognize what is superfluous, and what is part of the sculpture. How many apprentices have spoiled a block of marble by a wrong blow? We must learn to be guided by the plan of the GˆAˆOˆTˆUˆ as we shape ourselves and our world to fit into that perfect edifice, not made by hands... If we study and reflect upon our oaths and the teachings of Masonry, Scottish Rite and York Masonry; if we keep these teachings before us always in our daily lives and in our interactions with the world, we cannot help but make at least our particular corner of the world a better place, and an example for others to follow. So, my Brethren, may we always keep ourselves sharp, cutting within the boundaries of the lines laid out by the instruments of our craft and being careful not to spoil the Great Work by a careless mis-strike. If we can learn to do this, then we can truly become a part of that great