There was once a stonecutter, who was dissatisfied with himself and with his position in life.
One day, he passed a wealthy merchant’s house, and through the open gateway, saw many fine possessions and important visitors. “How powerful that merchant must be!” thought the stonecutter. He became very envious, and wished that he could be like the merchant. Then he would no longer have to 1ive the live of a mere stonecutter.
To his great surprise, he suddenly became the merchant, enjoying more luxuries and power than he had ever dreamed of, envied and detested by those less wealthy than himself. But soon a high official passed by, carried in a sedan chair, accompanied by attendants, and escorted by soldiers beating gongs. Everyone, no matter how wealthy, had to bow low before the procession. “How powerful that official is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be a high official!”
Then he became the high official, carried everywhere in his embroidered sedan chair, feared and hated by the people all around, who had to bow down before him as he passed. It was a hot summer day, and the official felt very uncomfortable in the sticky sedan chair. He looked up at the sun. It shone proudly in the sky, unaffected by his presence. “How powerful the sun is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be the sun!”
Then he became the sun, shining fiercely down on everyone, scorching the fields, cursed by the fanners and laborers. But a huge black cloud moved between him and the earth, so that his light could no longer shine on everything below. “How powerful that storm cloud Is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be a cloud!”
Then he became the cloud, flooding the fields and villages, shouted at by everyone. But soon he found that he was being pushed away by some great force, and realized that it was the wind. “How powerful it is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be the wind!”
Then he became the wind, blowing tiles off the roofs of houses, uprooting trees, hated and feared by all below him. But after a while, he ran up against something that would not move, no matter how forcefully he blew against it – a huge, towering stone. “How powerful that stone is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be a stone!”
Then he became the stone, more powerful than anything else on earth. But as he stood there, he heard the sound of a hammer pounding a chisel into the solid rock, and felt himself being changed. “What could be more powerful than I, the stone?” he thought. He looked down and saw far below him the figure of a stonecutter.
A colleague who knew I was a Mason came across this story and thinking I might find it interesting passed it along to me. It has been on my desk for a while now and every couple of days I pick it up and read it again. I find I come back to it for a couple of reason.
It made think about the people I know who are like the 1st stonecutter – replace the word powerful with jealous, envious, possessive etc. and I think you will see what I mean
It also reminds me of a poster I had in my room titled ‘Everything I need to know I learned in Kindergarten” which lists a large number of common sense things that “just make sense” , such as take a nap every afternoon, sharing your toys, taking care of each other, take time to cry and laugh, all of which remind me of the Masonic virtues of Honor, Brotherly Love, Charity and Goodwill.
But as I thought about the story I realized I was recalling lessons from what I consider to be one of the most meaningful lectures I have heard in my short time as a Mason, which is so eloquently delivered by Bro. Cruikshank. The lecture of the ascent of the Winding Stair delivered in the Fellowcraft Degree.
So with your indulgence Worship Master I will take a few minutes and attempt to draw some comparisons.
To begin I want to emphasis that I do not see the Masonic Fraternity being related to the idea of power or becoming powerful except on a personal level.
The Stonecutter wants to become the most powerful thing in the land and of course he eventually looks at nature or the elements of nature as being that. In the lecture we are reminded that we pass through a porch with 2 pillars, symbolizing strength and establishment. Yet without strength the porch can not hold itself up and establishment suggests a plan, a plan that is needed to maintain the porch since strength alone will not make it function properly. Of course the pillars are made of the very stone the stonecutter is trained to use and which he eventually becomes in his quest for power.
As we arrive at the first of the stairs we are reminded that they represent the 3 degrees of Masonry and while we progress through the 3 degrees and learn more about Masonry I believe we change, at least I feel I did. I see a symbolism in that the stonecutter also changes as he assumes what he sees as the symbols of power. While in these roles he is changing much like we do unfortunately the Stonecutter doesn’t seem to learn, and learning is a quality that is fundamental to our Fraternity – the need to learn about our craft in order to make ourselves better Masons and better people.
I also find it interesting that the stonecutter is able to maintain the use of his senses even though he takes on non-human forms and again in the lecture we are reminded of the importance of the senses. I was also intrigued by the fact that the senses the stonecutter maintains are sight, and feel, two of the 3 senses we are told are necessary in recognizing our Brothers.
In the Fellowcraft lectures we are finally reminded that we should continue to study the Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences so that we can continue to learn, to “polish and adorn the mind”. The Stonecutter went through a series of changes in an attempt to gain power and privilege but never learned or understood that sometimes the most important thing to remember is that you have everything you need already, right inside of you. I was reminded of the sculptor who when being praised for producing a remarkable sculpture and for having the talent to produce such a beautiful piece of work he remarked that the beauty was always there he simple helped by freeing it from the stone that kept it hidden.
Lastly then is the 2nd Stonecutter symbolic of the Lodge, our brothers who slowly help to expose that which is beautiful in each of us, helping good men be better by assisting them in finding all the good they have within themselves? Isn’t this the most basic concept that Masonry stands for; the promotion of self-improvement, encouraging our members to look within themselves and work toward being a better person.
So the question becomes are you going to be like the Stonecutter and try to be something you aren’t or are you going to draw your strength from the tools of operative masons, the Stonecutters, which we use to symbolize and teach the basic principles of brotherly love, charity, and truth which Masons are encouraged to practice in their daily lives.
Paper prepared by Bro. Don Anderson, Apollo Lodge #27, Stettler, Alberta October, 2006. Feel free to use as is or adapt to meet your needs.