Charles A. Sankey
23 February 1968

This evening in our continuing consideration of Masonic-things-to -live-by, I want to deal with a subject pertinent to all three degrees. In one of his essays in "Morals and Dogma" Albert Pike writes:

From first to last Masonry is work. It venerates the great Architect of the Universe. It commemorates the building of a temple. Its principal emblems are the working tools of Masons and Artisans. It preserves the name of the first worker in brass and iron as one of its pass-words. When the brethren meet together they are at labour.

In the first degree each of us was presented with three tools for preparation of the work. The first of these is suitable for measuring things, - a reminder that the universe is a cosmos, not a chaos, a quantitative entity in time and space, not an abstract blob existing nowhere without life or form. The second is suitable for directing energy towards the work, - a reminder that each one of us as individuals can labour, can change the shape of things. The third is suitable for the application of force to the work in hand, - a reminder that each task is specific and requires not only perseverence but care and skill.

The term "the common gavel" is, I am afraid, usually lost on the candidate. I never appreciated what was meant until the first time I actually presented the working tools in the first degree. The gavel is the striking tool, - really just the common hammer and should be called such. I would like to give the symbol some free play and include the axe, the sledge, the pile-driver, anything that wields force under the hand of man and emply the word "common" in the sense that it is common to each one of us.

May I remind you, too, that these same tools are presented to the Master on his installation. They are pertinent to him as tools of preparation for his task. But they are, in his case, the last tools to be presented, not the first. This probably happened simply from the format of the installation but I think it is fitting that the Master should be reminded last that due preparation and having the means at hand are essential to a proper execution of each objective.

In the second degree we were presented with three tools for inspection or testing. The first is for testing the form, - a reminder that a square peg doesn't fit in a round hole literally as well as human-wise. The second Is for testing the suitability, - a reminder that any work should be directed to its use, that it is as ineffective to cast pearls before swine as to offer crude idols to the more enlightened. The third is for testing the uprightness, - a reminder of another kind of balance, - that it is, in the long run, as undesirable to be a mere zealot (that word could be substituted for "enthusiast" in the presentation) as to be a mud slinger.

May I remind you again that these tools were also presented to the Master on his installation. They are highly pertinent to him for testing the balanced words and judgments and actions of his office.

In the third degree we were presented with three tools for construction or placement. Here I would like to depart from the more limited suggestions of the presentation. The first is for locating the site, - a reminder that work should be done where there is room for it to serve its purpose. The second is for providing a record - a reminder that we can communicate the nature of our work and make our thoughts available to our fellows and to posterity so that our work may perhaps light the pathway for others at least a short distance ahead. The third and last, I feel, is to provide harmony and beauty in the whole, - a reminder that by recognizing the limits as well as the possibilities of our work we may unite art, skill and labour to erect a structure worthy of the builder.

Again may I remind, you these tools were also presented to the Master at his installation.

So, tonight, I suggest you take your working tools, - all nine if you have them and, if not, such as you have, to the ashlars, where, in company with your brethren, you will be welcome.

It is by design that the immovable jewels are open in all our ceremonies. The Oxford Dictionary defines ashlar-work as "masonry constructed of square hewn stones, the opposite of rubble work". Our task is to perform ashlar-work.

Why do we work? Let me pass on, once again, the words of Kahlil Gibran:

You work that you may keep pace with the earth and the soul of the earth.
For to be idle is to become a stranger unto the seasons, and to step out of life's procession, that marches in majesty and proud submission towards the infinite.
You have been told also that life is darkness, and in your weariness you echo what was said by the weary.
And I say that life is indeed darkness save when there is urge,
And all urge is blind save when there is knowledge,
And all knowledge is vain save when there is work,
And all work is empty save when there is love;
And when you work with love you bind yourself to yourself, and to one another, and to God.
And what is it to work with love?
It is to weave the cloth with threads drawn from your heart, even as if your beloved were to wear that cloth.
It is to build a house with affection, even as if your beloved were to dwell in that house.
It is to sow seeds with tenderness and reap the harvest with joy, even as if your beloved were to eat the fruit.
It is to charge all things you fashion with a breath of your own spirit.
Work is love made visible.

And so, my brethren, tonight as a Masonic-thing-to-live-by I give you ashlar-work. By it, making love visible, you can extend your life in space and time. By it you can realize in yourself something of the beauty, the harmony and the majesty of the cosmos. By it, with God's help and your own endeavours, you can alter the universe.