The Plumb Rule

The infallible Plumb Rule, which, like Jacob’s Ladder, connects Heaven and Earth, is the criterion of rectitude and Truth. It teaches us to walk justly and uprightly …

Part of an 18thC Masonic lecture

Soon after they had completed their researches into Masonic Light, Adam and Sandeep had turned their attention to the three movable jewels – the Square, the Level and the Plumb Rule.

Adam had suggested that of the three, he had been most intrigued by the Plumb Rule.

‘Why is that?’ asked Sandeep.


‘Well, it all started at school, when I learned about Isaac Newton and the famous story of the apple falling from the tree in a dead straight line until it hit the ground.

In my mind, I projected the journey of the apple backwards, up into the sky, far above the apple tree, and imagined that, were something to fall from the canopy of heaven, it would have hit the same spot.’

‘If you think about it,’ said Sandeep, ‘the plumb rule, being located between heaven and earth, joins the seven-starred canopy of heaven with the mosaic pavement.’ There was a pause. ‘Actually, it’s a struggle between opposing forces – we have to descend in order to ascend.’

Suddenly Adam was struck by something he had read elsewhere.

‘Do you remember the hermetic Latin acrostic V.I.T.R.I.O.L.?

Visita interiora terrae, rectificandoque, invenies occultum lapidem.

‘Sorry,’ said Sandeep, ‘my Latin isn’t up to it.’

‘Well, a good translation might be “Visit the interior of the earth, and purifying it, you will find the hidden stone.

So if this plumb rule points towards the centre of the earth, it is indicating that we need to look into the interior.’

‘Or if the plumb rule points towards our own centre,’ said Sandeep, ‘then that is where we have to go to seek the Truth. Then the “hidden stone” is our own Truth!’

‘Yes,’ said Adam, ‘it really is one of the “hidden mysteries of Nature and Science”.’

‘And the plumb rule, being “true”, provides us with another allegory. In Hindi, we have a word That meaning “Truth” but can also mean “Divine Wisdom”.

Just as the plumb rule is always “True” so is also the Divine Wisdom – actually they are the same thing.

And the ability to perceive the truth and to distinguish between truth and untruth, light and darkness, like the opposing black and white squares of the mosaic pavement.

We say that a yogi’s mind must be sharp as the sharpest sword, in order to split the Truth and the Untruth. Jnana yoga is the study of the Truth.’

‘And in St. John’s Gospel,’ said Adam, ‘we read “And ye shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall make you free”.’

‘Well, then that resonates with one of the Upanishads:

“If That is known here, then Truth is established; if not known here, it is the greatest loss. Having reflected through every element, the wise risen from this world become immortal”.’

‘Do you mean that the wise, the truly wise, become one with the Creative Principle?’ asked Adam.

‘Then that is why the plumb rule, like Jacob’s Ladder, like the Hexalpha, all connect heaven and earth, macrocosm and microcosm as Hermes Trismegistus said “to achieve the wonders of the One Thing”.

The plumb rule takes me out of my inner microcosm and opens to me a vast space, enlarged to the space of the macrocosm.’

Yes, thought Sandeep, here I am in an upright position, my feet planted on the ground because of the law of gravity, but I aspire to rise, to make my way to celestial realms.

Article by:  Julian Rees

Julian Rees was initiated into Freemasonry in 1968 in Kirby Lodge No. 2818, London and was Master in 1976/77 and again at the centenary of the Lodge in 1999/2000. He joined many other UGLE Lodges. 

He has been a regular contributor to Freemasonry Today since its founding in 1997 and from 2003 to 2007 he was Deputy and News Editor. 

He was appointed active Junior Grand Deacon in the United Grand Lodge of England in 2007. In 2011 he left UGLE and joined the International Order of Freemasonry for Men and Women Le Droit Humain. He remains a well-published and respected Masonic author.

web site:

Making Light Handbook For Freemasons

by Julian Rees


At last an easy-to-read guide to the path of self-knowledge and self-improvement that is Freemasonry. This volume takes the reader through each of the three degrees of Craft Freemasonry, explaining how best to gain insight from the study and application of these teachings.

For the newly made Mason, this book provides an explanation of the ceremony and a glossary of Masonic terminology. It also provides a similar guide for future degrees of Masonic progression.

For the experienced Freemason it illustrates interesting and largely unknown aspects of the symbolism of the three degrees. To discover the true Masonic secret, we have to work to bring it forth; this book is the manual for that great work.


Tracing Boards of the Three Degrees in Craft Freemasonry Explained

by Julian Rees


Although most Freemasons will be familiar with the Tracing Boards – painted or engraved illustrations developed in the early years of Freemasonry which are used in Lodges to illustrate Masonic symbols and allegories during degree ceremonies and lectures – little has been published on them.

The Tracing Boards are an essential part of the three Craft Degrees, assisting the Freemason in his quest to decode and interpret those allegories.

There is no publication which adequately explains the Tracing Boards, their use and meaning of their symbolism, and Tracing Boards of the Three Degrees in Craft Freemasonry Explained fills that gap.

The first three chapters give a detailed method of understanding and revealing the import of the three craft boards, based on those used in the three degrees by the Emulation Lodge of Improvement, known as the Harris Boards, which contain the elements of most of the Tracing Boards used in Lodges throughout England.

The fourth chapter gives a brief overview of the history and the development of Tracing Boards in England, with some fascinating illustrations of long-forgotten boards.

In the fifth chapter the author draws in many Tracing Boards and Lodge Cloths from other countries, particularly from the USA, and from other Masonic jurisdictions, bringing the art-form right up to the 21st century.

This book is richly illustrated and features boards never before seen outside museums.

Julian Rees was for some years on the Precepting Committee of the Emulation Lodge of Improvement in London. He has been a regular contributor to the quarterly magazine Freemasonry Today since its founding in 1997.

In 2003, he joined the editorial team as deputy and news editor, and in the same year delivered the prestigious Wendel K. Walker Memorial Lecture in New York entitled Through Ritual to Enlightenment.

He was one of the founding members of The Cornerstone Society, serving as Secretary for a number of years, and has lectured extensively to lodges in this country and abroad.

Rees has been honoured by the Institut Maçonnique de France with the Ordre Maçonnique de Lafayette.

He is now a member of the International Order of Freemasonry Le Droit Humain in England.

He is the author of Making Light – A Handbook for Freemasons, The Stairway of Freemasonry, Ornaments Furniture and Jewels and So You Want To Be A Freemason?


Recent Articles: by Julian Rees

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