The Plumb: Masonic Symbolism 

Masonic symbols have been a topic of fascination and intrigue for both members of the fraternity and the uninitiated. Among the myriad of symbols utilized in Freemasonry, the plumb holds a significant position. 

This article will delve into the rich history and profound symbolism of the plumb in Masonic practices, shedding light on its relevance to the lives of Freemasons and offering insights into its moral teachings.

A Brief History of the Plumb

The plumb was originated as an essential tool used by operative masons in the construction of buildings. This instrument, typically fashioned out of wood or metal with a string and weight attached, was crucial in ensuring that structures were erected in a perpendicular fashion.

As Speculative Freemasonry emerged, this emblem of a builder’s workmanship transformed into a powerful symbolic instrument to teach moral lessons. The plumb thus became one of the working tools of a Fellow Craft and a vital component of Masonic ceremonies.

Symbolism and Moral Teachings: The plumb’s primary symbolism in the Masonic tradition is that of moral uprightness, exemplifying the virtues of truth, justice, and integrity. When applied to human conduct, the plumb emphasizes the importance of leading a life that adheres to the highest moral principles, unwavering in the face of adversity or temptation.

The Importance of Justice and Integrity: The plumb, as a physical tool, embodies the idea of strict adherence to standards, leaving no room for deviation in the construction of a building. In a similar vein, the Speculative Freemason uses this concept as a guiding principle to stay true to their values regardless of circumstance.

The use of the plumb as a symbol for justice and integrity transcends cultural and linguistic boundaries. For instance, the Latin term _rectum_, the Greek word πρωκτός (noun) and even the English word _right_ all share connotations of both perpendicularity and morality.

Pursuit of Truth: Freemasons view the pursuit of truth as essential to their mission, and the plumb embodies this pursuit. Guided by the metaphorical plumb-line, a Freemason must always seek the truth and convey it to others. This dedication to honesty and openness forms the foundation of the brotherhood, as trust in one another is fundamental to the fraternity’s success.

Overcoming Adversity: The undeviating steadfastness associated with the plumb implores Freemasons to maintain their convictions even during difficult times. In facing adversity or hardship, a Freemason must embrace the lessons taught by the plumb by remaining resolute in their beliefs, never yielding to temptation or surrendering to despair.

Balancing Ambition with Humility: As a Fellow Craft progresses in their Masonic journey, they must employ the guidance of the plumb to find equilibrium between ambition and humility. By using a plumb-line to gauge their actions and desires, Freemasons can strive for great achievements without succumbing to self-aggrandizement or egotism.

Application in Masonic Rituals: The plumb is incorporated in various Masonic rituals and ceremonies, serving as a constant reminder of its moral teachings.

The Role of the Plumb in Lodge Ceremonies: The plumb’s moral lessons and imbuing the Junior Warden with vital responsibilities contribute significantly to the overall functioning and atmosphere of a Masonic lodge. By carrying the plumb, the Junior Warden upholds and promotes the essential principles it symbolizes, ensuring that the lodge members remain aware of their own moral conduct and the importance of leading an upright life.

Plumb’s Moral Lessons: Truth, Integrity, and Justice: The key moral lessons associated with the plumb are those of truthfulness, integrity, and justice. These virtues are closely intertwined, exemplifying the high standard of morality that Freemasons are expected to uphold in their everyday lives.

 

* Truthfulness: Plumb’s unwavering commitment to the pursuit of truth serves as a guiding light for Masons in their interpersonal interactions, thoughts, and personal convictions. The Junior Warden, by carrying the plumb, reminds fellow Masons of the importance of always being truthful in their words and actions.

* Integrity: The vertical nature of the plumb stresses the idea of always standing upright in one’s moral conduct. The Junior Warden’s possession of the plumb symbolizes their dedication to living with integrity, a quality that they must also encourage in other lodge members.

* Justice: The plumb’s association with exacting, straight measurements serves as a reminder that fairness and justice should be the guiding principles in all aspects of Freemasonry. By emphasizing justice as one of the plumb’s moral lessons, the Junior Warden ensures that lodge members act with equity and respect toward one another and the broader community.

Imbuing the Junior Warden with Responsibilities: In addition to symbolizing the moral principles, the plumb also imbues the Junior Warden with particular obligations and responsibilities in overseeing the conduct and behaviour of lodge members. These duties are vital in maintaining a harmonious and supportive environment within the lodge, as well as in preserving the sacred tenets of Freemasonry.

 

* Monitoring Behavior: As a symbolic guardian of the plumb’s moral principles, the Junior Warden has a responsibility to observe the conduct of lodge members and ensure that they adhere to Masonic laws and the teachings of Freemasonry. This includes promoting your harmony, maintaining decorum during meetings, and intervening if a member’s behavior or actions are contrary to the fraternity’s values.

* Encouraging Growth and Education: As a beacon of morality, the Junior Warden is expected to foster personal and collective growth among lodge members. This entails energizing members to delve deeper into the teachings of Freemasonry, address their moral shortcomings, and strive for self-improvement.

* Upholding Tradition: The act of carrying the plumb as a symbol of office connects the Junior Warden to the rich heritage and history of Freemasonry. It is their duty to ensure that the timeless principles embodied in the plumb continue to be cherished and passed down to future generations of Masons.

The Second Degree

Marking a Fellow Craft’s progression through the Masonic ranks, the Second Degree features the plumb-line as a prominent symbol. The candidate is instructed to live uprightly and in accordance with the moral teachings represented by the plumb.

During the ceremony, the Scripture passage from Amos 7:7 is recited, with the plumb-line symbolizing the exacting standards by which God will measure humanity.

Lessons for all Freemasons: As a central symbol in Speculative Freemasonry, the plumb offers valuable lessons for all Masons, regardless of rank or tenure. The virtues it embodies – honesty, integrity, justice, and uncompromising faith in one’s convictions – are fundamental to the successful practice of both the Masonic and non-Masonic aspects of a Freemason’s life.

Conclusion: The plumb masonic symbolism is a powerful reminder of the high moral standards that Freemasons must strive to embody in their daily lives. By understanding and internalizing the symbol’s meaning, a Fellow Craft and other members of the fraternity are better equipped to navigate the complexities of life with steadfastness, resilience, and unwavering moral conviction. In doing so, they will not only improve themselves but also create a stronger, more harmonious society.

[Article based on the entries in Encyclopedia of Freemasonry by Albert MacKey]

Article by: Albert G. Mackey

Albert Gallatin Mackey (1807 – 1881) was an American medical doctor and author.

He is best known for his books and articles about freemasonry, particularly the Masonic Landmarks.

In 1849 he established The Southern and Western Masonic Miscellany, a weekly masonic magazine.

He served as Grand Lecturer and Grand Secretary of The Grand Lodge of South Carolina, as well as Secretary General of the Supreme Council of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite for the Southern Jurisdiction of the United States

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