MASONIC ED

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Education

Compiled By Jack R. Levitt Past Grand Master of California
PLUMB AND PLUMB-LINE

The use of the plumb as a working tool symbolizes, among other things, that the Candidate is progressing in knowledge and ability, for as the Entered Apprentice was simply taught to use the more elementary tools used to extract the rough stone from the quarry and to hew it to an approximate size. It was the Fellow Craft who finally finished the stone through his advanced knowledge and ability to
use the tools of his trade, the plumb, square, and level.The plumb is an instrument used to try perpendiculars, to gauge the true uprightness of the stone. The speculative Mason is taught to use the plumb to gauge the uprightness of his conduct and he is told that it admonishes him to walk uprightly in his several stations before God and man. Of all the straight lines, real or supposed, the plumb-line comes the nearest to perfection. In all ages, the straight line has been the perfect symbol of perfect actions, the shortest distance between two points, the best way of living a life.
Thus, the Lord standing on a wall of material masonry showed Amos as nearly perfect a symbol of moral rectitude as can be shown to man in a material universe and to the Mason this is what it represents and teaches.

TWENTY-FOUR-INCH GAUGE

A rule two feet long, which is divided by marks into twenty-four parts each one inch in length. The Operative Mason uses it to take the necessary dimensions of the stone that he is about to prepare. It has been adopted as one of the working-tools of the Entered Apprentice in Speculative Freemasonry, where its divisions are supposed to represent hours. Hence its symbolic use is to teach him to measure his time so that, he may devote eight hours to the service of God and a worthy distressed Brother, eight hours to his usual vocation, and eight to refreshment and sleep. In some Grand Jurisdictions the hours are referred to as a part rather than eight hours and to repose rather than sleep.

In the twenty-four gauge is a symbol of time well employed, following as best we can the example of the lines told to us by Longfellow in the Psalm of Life,

Lives of great men all remind us We can make our lives sublime, And departing leave behind us Footprints on the sands of time. The Masonic essence of the lesson is ability, preparedness and readiness, recalling the suggestion of William Shakespeare to the workman in Julius Caesar (act I, scene i, line t),
“Where is thy leather apron and thy rule? What dost thou with thy best apparel on? ”

TROWEL

An implement of Operative Masonry, which has been adopted by Speculative Freemasons as the peculiar working- tool of the Master’s Degree. By this implement, and its use in Operative Masonry to spread the cement which binds all the parts of the building into one common mass, we are taught to spread the cement of affection and kindness, which Units all the members of the Masonic family, where so ever dispersed over the globe, into one companionship of Brotherly Love and an old custom in an Oxford Lodge, England, gave it prominence as a jewel, and as a symbol it goes back to the practice of the Ancient.

Today this implement is considered the appropriate working-tool of a Master Mason, because, hi Operative Masonry, while the Apprentice is engaged in preparing the rude materials, which require only the Gauge and Gavel to give them their proper shape, the Fellow Craft places them in their proper position by means of the Plumb, Level and Square; but the Master Mason alone,
having examined their correctness and proved them true and trusty, secures them permanently in then- place by spreading, with the trowel, the cement that irrevocably binds them together.

 

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Masonic Education

*“Free Born: A free soul; one having attained mastery of himself by self
discipline. It is a misconception that this refers to one not born into
slavery.” *

From ‘Facts for Freemasons’ by Harold V.B. Vooris

When it comes to the qualifications of a candidate we learn in the first
degree what the qualifications of a Freemason are; being a man, free born or lawful age and well recommended. However we know that there is another qualification and that is to be a man who believes in a Supreme Being, in Minnesota the petition for the degrees of Freemasonry asks; “Do you have a sincere belief and trust in God?”

I think the qualifications of a Freemason are interesting to think about;
especially the qualification about being Free Born. When I was first made a Mason and began to learn the first section of the lecture of the first degree, I asked about the phrase Free Born. The answer I got, seemed to me, to be much less than satisfactory, and it seemed to me to smack of racism.
Ever since then I have been interested in why we, as Freemasons, hang onto the phrase Free Born, instead of changing it to Free Man. The United Grand Lodge of England in 1847 made the change from Free Born to Free Man, but as far as I know they are in the minority in making that change in the wording.

When I think of the word or words Free Born I remember a phase I heard, long enough ago to forget where I heard it; *“there is no shame in having been a slave, there is only shame in having been a slave owner.”* Being born into slavery is not a choice; it is an accident of birth. As Brother A.S. McBride says in his book ‘Speculative Freemasonry’ *“A man may have been born a slave, yet attain his freedom and posses all the qualifications necessary for making a good Mason, why should he be excluded?”* Brother McBride wrote this in 1924 when most men, who had been born into slavery, in the United States, would have been pretty old, but the question still is a good one. Brother Henry Wilson Coil wrote in his encyclopedia regarding the words Free Born and Free Man that if the requirement were only Free Born then a man
born in slavery would be excluded under the qualifications of a petitioner, but a Bondsman would be eligible. However, using the term Free Man would not exclude a man born into slavery, but would exclude a Bondsman. It might be appropriate here to include the dictionary’s definition of Bondsman: “A male Bond Servant.” The definition for Bondservant has the meaning of a slave or serf, also called a ‘Bondslave.’ These definitions might be helpful when we think of a Bondsman or read about the philosophy of
Brother Martin Delaney when it comes to the question of Free Born.

When it comes to reading and thinking about the phrase ‘Free Born’ I do like what our Brother Martin Delaney wrote on this subject. From a talk he delivered to St. Cyprian Lodge #13 on St. John the Baptist Day in 1853 he mentioned that *‘in many parts of the world, the people of various nations were subject to lose their liberty in several ways’*; a forfeiture by crime, voluntary servitude [Bondsman] for a stipulated sum or reward, and capture in battle by which one could be sold into slavery. It was his opinion that those who voluntarily gave up their freedom, such as by committing and being convicted of a crime or being a bondsman, were ‘positively proscribed and utterly unworthy of its [Freemasonry’s] benefits.’ He said in his talk that *‘none but him who voluntarily [surrendered] his liberty was recognized as a slave by Masonry.’ *Regarding the third category, talking about slaves and their offspring, he said; *‘

You have the bold, the brave, the high-minded, the independent-spirit, and manly form of a kindred brother in humanity, whose heart is burning, whose breast is heaving, and whose soul is wrung with panting aspirations for liberty – a commander, a chieftain, a knight or a prince, it may be – still he is a captive and by the laws of captivity, a slave. Does Masonry, then, contemplate the withholding of its privileges from such applicants as these? Certainly not; since Moses, (to whom our great Grand Master Solomon, the founder of the temple, is indebted for his Masonic wisdom,) was born a slave, and lived in captivity eighty years and by the laws of his captors a slave. It matters not whether captured inactual conflict, sleeping by the wayside, or in a cradle of bulrushes, after birth, so that here be a longing aspiration for liberty, and manly determination to be free. Policy alone will not permit the order to confer
Masonic privileges on one while yet in captivity; but the fact of his former
conditions as such, or that of his parents, can have no bearing whatsoever on him. The mind and the desires of the recipient must be free; and at the time of his endowment with these privileges, his person and mind must be unencumbered with all earthly trammels or fetters.’ *

From the above quoted portion of his talk; “Origin and Objects of Ancient
Freemasonry: Its Introduction into the United States, and Legitimacy Among Colored Men,” we learn something about Brother Delaney’s philosophy on the question of whether the term Free Born should be taken literally or if it should be taken to mean Free Man, and some today ask whether to end the confusion, of the term, the ritual ought to be changed to Free Man.

Occasionally Masons will sometimes hear another Mason comment about someone he knows saying; that he will check with [insert the name or title here] and if they say it is o.k. then he will join, [the Masons.] When I hear something like that reported I think about two things; one is that this
doesn’t sound like someone coming to Masonry of his own free will and
accord, and the other thing I think of is that it sounds like he’s abdicated
his freedom to make a decision to someone else, and has therefore in some small way voluntarily surrendered his right to choose, at least on this question, to another. In any event it doesn’t sound, to me, like a Free Man making his own decisions.

To read about Brother Martin Delaney is an enjoyable experience. He was a most remarkable man of great accomplishment. Information on him can be found on the Internet and also in ‘Black Square and Compass’ by Brother Joseph Walkes Jr.

To learn more about the qualifications of petitioners see the section under that name and title in Coil’s Masonic Encyclopedia, it is quite extensive and interesting with information about all the Masonic Manuscripts. For instance, Brother Coil’s encyclopedia says all but the Regius Manuscript say Free Born; it [the Regius Manuscript] says instead ‘No Bondsman,’ meaning free at the time of entering the fraternity.

If you don’t have these books in your personal Masonic Library it is
something you might want to consider, (it is a small investment for one
involved in a lifelong study of Freemasonry,) but do yourself a favor and
read them in your Lodge’s Library. By the way, a Lodge making an investment in books for their library is a good thing for a Lodge to do. By having a wide variety of books in a Lodge Library many Brethren can read, lean and enjoy, without each one building up his own personal library. A Lodge Library is a most cost effective way for Masons to learn about Freemasonry.

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Compiled By Jack R. Levitt Past Grand Master of California.

SQUARE AND COMPASS

The earth produces all that ministers to the needs, comfort and luxury of man, while the Heavens produce the light and heat, which gives the procreative and generative agents to allow the earth to produce.The Square is adapted for plane surfaces, which the ancients believed to be the shape of the earth and is appropriate to that branch of Geometry used to measure the earth. The Compass has relation to spheres and spherical Trigonometry, that branch of mathematics, which deals with the
orbits of the planetary bodies.

The Square is a symbol of the earth and the Compass of the Heavens. As a candidate advances and receives more light in Masonry, he sees the change in the configuration of the Compass to the Square, not merely as bare points, but as an elevation.
Since the Square represents the earth it is symbolic of the material, sensual and base portion of humanity. The Compass, representing the Heavens is symbolic of the spiritual, intellectual and moral portion of humanity. Masonry teaches that we are capable of improvement and advancement and that life is a battle to effect reason and moral sense to overcome the passions. Hence, the points of the compass elevate above the square teaching that Freemasonry is the subjugation of the human that is in man by the Divine.

ACACIA

The acacia, which, in Scripture, is always called Shittah, was esteemed a sacred wood among the Hebrews. Of it Moses was ordered to make the tabernacle, the Ark of the Covenant, the table for the shewbread, and the rest of the sacred furniture.The acacia, then, has always been consecrated from among the other trees of the forest by the sacred purposes to which it was devoted. By the Jew, the tree from whose wood the sanctuary of the tabernacle and the Holy Ark had been constructed. The early Masons very naturally appropriated this hallowed plant to the equally sacred purpose of a symbol, which was to teach an important divine truth in all ages to come.The acacia, in the mythic system of Freemasonry, is preeminently the symbol of the IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL – that important doctrine which it is the great design of the institution to teach. As the evanescent nature of the flower, which ” cometh forth and is cut down ” reminds us of the transitory

nature of human life, so the perpetual renovation of the evergreen plant, which uninterruptedly presents the appearance of youth and vigor, is aptly compared to that spiritual life in which the soul, freed tromthe corruptible companionship of the body, shall enjoy an eternal spring and an immortal youth

Hence we see the propriety of placing the sprig of acacia, as an emblem of immortality, among the symbols of that degree, all of whose ceremonies are intended to teach us the great truth that “the life of man, regulated by morality, faith, and justice, will be rewarded at its closing hour by the prospect of Eternal Bliss. “

The sprig of acacia, then, in its most ordinary signification, presents itself to the Master Mason as a symbol of the immortality of the soul, being intended to remind him, by its evergreen and unchanging nature, of that better and spiritual part within us, which, as an emanation from the Grand Architect of the Universe, can never die.

CABLE TOW
In its first and original application, the cable-tow seems to have been used as physical means of controlling the candidate and such an interpretation is still put upon it in the Entered Apprentice degree. But, in the more recent times, more modern symbolism has been introduced, and is now supposed to symbolize the covenant by which all Masons are tied to us, reminding us of
the passage in Hosea: “He drew them with the cords of a man, with bands of love. “
According to the ancient laws of Masonry every brother was expected to attend his Lodge if he was within the length of his cable-tow. The old writers defined the length of the cable-tow to be three miles for an Entered Apprentice, but this has been since defined as being “the reasonable scope of a man’s ability. “

Thus, this definition is ascribed not only as it applies to attending Lodge, but also in the performance of the various duties necessary to the proper functioning of the Lodge. A Brother is not asked to come any distance , however small, if in doing so it would work a hardship or unnecessarily inconvenience him, nor to perform any duty that was not reasonable within his ability to perform.

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Under The Jurisdiction of Grand Lodge of California