A Brief Reflection on the Allegory of Operative Masonry
Our fraternity is often described as “a system of morality, veiled in allegory, and illustrated with symbols”. Of central importance to the rituals and symbolism of our light seeking fraternity are the tools of operative masonry. Here I share a brief thought of my own on the allegory of operative masonry and how I view its relationship to the cooperative, social nature of man and to the advancement of civilization.
In our distant past, the world was a dark wilderness. Man, is unique among god’s creatures for the sharpness of his intellect, the keenness of his reason, and his capacity for language. But blessed as he is with these gifts, he remains a frail and weak creature. He has no thick fur to warm his body, no rugged hide to protect him and no terrible claws to distinguish him as an apex predator. All his clever improvisations serve only to elevate him at best, to the level of a stout beast.
It is the social nature of man that elevates him to his station as master of a dark world. The earliest men banded together in tribes or clans and together could repel the most voracious of carnivores and subdue the heartiest of prey. Gradually, in time man learned the skills he needed to not just hunt, but to raise and keep beasts for food and to not just gather the plants and fruits of the earth but to cultivate them. This knowledge was passed between men and across generations. With this newly discovered power, man achieved freedom from wandering the wilderness in search of sustenance and the early tribes began to coalesce into settlements.
These settlements grew into villages and towns, which became hubs of exchange, not just for goods but for knowledge as well. Men working together, as social creatures do, began to adopt the most successful practices of their peers, and thus were instructed by each other’s example. As man’s mastery of agriculture grew, so too did his conurbations. The most successful towns, usually on the most fertile land, rose into cities, shining beacons of civilization that spread light into the shadowy wilds. And in these cities man built buildings of stone.
Stone buildings require a great and collective effort to construct. They are thus only possible where large groups of people can work together to construct them and only practical in permanent locations where the enduring nature of stone provides utility. Thus are the dawn masonry and the dawn of civilization inseparably joined together and thus are both owed largely to the social nature of man.
W.B. James P. Aglione Worshipful Master 2018