Where's My Chisel?

Discussion in 'General Freemasonry Discussion' started by Hancock, Dec 8, 2018.

  1. Hancock

    Hancock Registered User

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    Why don't we in America have the chisel as a working tool, as our English brethren do?
     
  2. coachn

    coachn Coach John S. Nagy Premium Member

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    Short answer: The majority of the USA Blue Lodges inherited the Preston-Webb style Ritual (6 WTs), rather than the Emulation style Ritual (9 WTs).
     
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  3. Hancock

    Hancock Registered User

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    Thanks Coach, but I just can't understand this. I need a better understanding of symbolic tools. It seems to me, I can beat my rough ashler with a gavel all day long, and it will be as rough as when I started. Can you direct me to further reading to help me understand this?
     
  4. Brother JC

    Brother JC Vigilant Staff Member

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    Elsewhere in US Ritual.
     
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  5. Bloke

    Bloke Premium Member

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    The Emulation ritual does not have a Trowel. While it does have reference to the spreading the "cement of brotherly love", the Trowel itself is absent. I think the best explanation is while Freemasonry might be universal, the specific vehicles (ritual) to deliver our values are not and developed locally according to taste and tradition - it is part of the richness of Freemasonry and once a MM, well worth the time to research to understand commonality and contrasts.

    Like you, I think the chisel is a great working tool; without it you cannot create a smooth ashlar. It also appears in the Mark Master Mason Degree; perhaps something you can join locally...

    You might be interested in this
    http://www.freemasons-freemasonry.com/working_tools_freemasonry.html
     
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  6. coachn

    coachn Coach John S. Nagy Premium Member

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    First off, it's a "Common Gavel". Common Gavels have gabled ends which are used to chip away at the stone, much like a chisel.

    Secondly, it's "symbolic"; indicating WORK must be done in the direction of perfecting your ashlar.

    And just like all things "symbolic", you can whack at something all day, but if you're not directing yourself properly, you ain't gonna be divesting yourself of anything and you'll just waste your time no matter how good you get at measuring it with your 24 IG.

    Sure, you get introduced to the chisel in the York Rite, but if you haven't perfected your ashlar by the time you get to your second degree, you're just a glorified member with a title and not someone who has actually applied himself as directed to by the first degree ritual.
     
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  7. Bloke

    Bloke Premium Member

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    I think the Common Gavel is really a Kevel.

    Are Our Lodge Gavels Really Gavels at All?

    There is no doubt that Freemasonry is esoteric in nature. Silver cords, golden bowls, and broken pitchers being prime examples of esoteric phrases within the Third Degree.




    Many of Freemasonry’s charges have deeper allusions and hidden depths and it can be argued that the most esoteric elements of “Our Craft” (a phrase esoteric in itself) is carried within our symbolism. Some people see a man in a Masonic apron, others will see a Brother dressed in a symbol indicating he has gone to work, ready to improve himself or chipping away at his rough ashlar; the rough stone sitting on every Junior Wardens’ pedestal. The rough alshar symbolically represents a Freemason’s character, hopefully transitioning towards the smooth ashlar on the Senior Warden’s pedestal. Change and self-improvement being an idea central to Freemasonry.




    Google, the fount of much Masonic knowledge, tells me “esoteric” is an adjective describing something “intended for or likely to be understood by only a small number of people with specialised knowledge....”. The experienced Freemason will know this, but I share it because not all our readers are experienced Freemasons, indeed many are not Freemasons at all.




    Some time ago, a few Brothers proposed that the gavel, one of our working tools which is given to a Masters’ and Wardens’ hand at the Installation “as a symbol of power”, might be replaced by the trowel, a symbol used in other Masonic systems and used there as a Third Degree working tool.


    In some Masonic jurisdictions, the Masonic trowel carries the lovely idea that Freemasons should symbolically use it for the “noble and glorious” purpose “of spreading the cement of brotherly love and affection; that cement which unites us into one sacred band, or society of friends and Brothers, among whom no contention should ever exist, but that noble contention, or rather emulation, of who best can work and best agree.” Such a use of a trowel is a beautiful sentiment which does get a passing mention in Victorian ceremonies in the “cement of brotherly love” at our Installations. We do however speak to uniting “in the Grand Design of being happy and communicating happiness. And as this Association has been formed and perfected with so much unanimity and concord, long may it continue; may brotherly love and affection ever distinguish us as men, and as Masons”. Although we have no trowel, its lessons are not lost within our ceremony. Good Masonic leaders certainly focus more on fostering “brotherly love” than wielding power and I suggest the presentation of a gavel to our leaders has a deeper meaning hidden in the object of the “gavel” itself.



    Have you ever noticed that most of our “gavels” are triangular on one face? They are not mallets, nor mauls and they are different from the gavels with two cylindrical striking ends that we see used by judges and auctioneers. Are our gavels really gavels at all, or something else?



    The operative stonemason used a tool called a kevel. This is described several ways including a “hammer/ pick-axe combination tool that could be used to rough out stone into an almost usable shape” and “a hammer for the rough dressing of stone, having one square face and one pyramidal face”. Another Masonic author writes that a “skilled stonemason could have easily used a kevel to create the rough ashlar of the First Degree”.


    I would suggest that even the simple “gavel” we use in our Lodges is esoteric. And that it is a stylised kevel.


    The gavel is not just a symbol of authority, but power. However, that power is not just about authority but the power of self-improvement for the gavel is not a gavel at all, it’s a kevel. A kevel being an operative Mason’s tool to chip away at the roughest of stones to produce the rough ashlar – the crude starting point for producing a perfect ashlar, a perfect cube with all sides having 90° angles, every edge the exact same length with all faces perfectly smooth. If the gavel is indeed a kevel, in giving it into our leaders’ hands, suggests that despite their position they still have work to do in their quarry on the very first stages of creating their perfect ashlar. This suggests much on the imperfections of the human state and being the crudest of tools in shaping a rough ashlar, it implies that despite their rank and regardless of their character or abilities, they still have much work to do.


    I understand that “kevel” is a fourteenth century word. The name was used in Scotland and Northern England until the early 1800s. However, its origin is obscure and suggested as being “from Old Northern French keville, from Latin clāvicula a little key, from clāvis key”. What a lovely idea – that the gavel is a key to unlocking our rough self before we apply other working tools to start on the finer work of the more expert workman – the smooth ashlar.



    As a society of men all striving for self-improvement, isn’t it an interesting idea that even the most senior of us still have much work to do as men and as Freemasons? We all do, and this should be our daily goal as Freemasons, not just making a daily advancement in Masonic knowledge, but also a daily advancement in improving our character.


    Moreover, might there be deeper meanings to common items in the lodge which don’t get much thought and even those that are mentioned, seen or used often might have deeper symbolism? Sometimes, Freemasons interested in esoterica draw very long bows in their conclusions, but I suspect my hypothesis on the gavel/kevel is a simple step in our speculative Masonic art.

     
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  8. Warrior1256

    Warrior1256 Site Benefactor

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    Wow! Very interesting stuff indeed. Discussions and information like this is why I love this site!
     
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  9. Hancock

    Hancock Registered User

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    GOT IT! My "common gavel,"in modern terms, is a geologists hammer. That I can work with.
     

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