Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Masonic Tools - Plumbing the Depths!

Mackey's Encyclopedia of Freemasonry offers the following observations on the Plumb, an important tool in Freemasonry:

A line to which a piece of lead is attached so as to make it hang perpendicularly. The plumb-line, sometimes called simply the line, is one of the working-tools of the Past Master. According to Preston, it was one of the instruments of Freemasonry which was presented to the Master of a Lodge at his installation, and he defines its symbolism as follows: "The line teaches the criterion of rectitude, to avoid dissimulation in conversation and action, and to direct our steps in the path which leads to immortality." This idea of the immortal life was always connected in symbology with that of the perpendicular-something that rose directly upward. Thus in the primitive church, the worshiping Christians stood up at prayer on Sunday, as a reference to the Lord's resurrection on that day. This symbolism is not, however, preserved in the verse of the prophet Amos (vii, 7) which is read in the United States as the Scripture passage of the Second Degree, where it seems rather to refer to the strict justice which God will apply to the people of Israel. It there coincides with the first Masonic definition that the line teaches the criterion of moral rectitude.

While most modern Masons will recognize the symbolic significance of the plumb in Speculative terms, and also the practical use in Operative Masonry, few will have considered it's use as a metaphysical tool. Yet, one wonders, given the metaphysical underpinnings of Freemasonry if the Plumb's use as a metaphysical tool was unknown or ignored by many Masons in past times, as it appears too commonly to be the case today.

Plumb bobs have been used in divining in a variety of cultures. They were known to have existed and were used both in operative masonry in Egyptian society, and played a role in Egyptian death passage ceremonies. They have also been used for divination purposes by Native Americans. The National Museum of the American Indian has several examples from the Cherokee culture, designated in their collection as having been used for divination.

When we look back at the language embedded in Masonic descriptions of the Plumb, it is easy to see how it might be construed as a tool for seeking information, that could be used to divine and receive messages from beyond or at the least to access deeper sources of knowledge from within. As noted before, Mackey states that "the line teaches the criterion of rectitude, to avoid dissimulation in conversation and action, and to direct our steps in the path which leads to immortality."  And elsewhere it has been noted that 

"It is a truly magnificient jewel, an indespensible working tool; and when applied to the work with its fellows, the square and the level, it opens the doorway of that middle chamber in those immortal mansions, whence all goodness emanates." This brief passage may be read by those who have an appreciation for esoteric masonry as an assertian that the plumb can be a direct source of access to inner wisdom.

J.V.A. Andreae, a German Mason published a poem in 1623 that may arguably offer an esotericist guidance on the use of the plumb as a divining tool.

The best logician is our God,
Whom the conclusion never fails;
He speaks - it is; He wills -- it stands;
He blows -- it falls; He breathes -- it lives;
His words are true .-- e'en without proof,
His counsel rules without command,
Therefore can none foresee his end -
Unless on God is built his hope.
And if we here below would learn
By Compass, Needles Square and Plumb,
We never must o'erlook the mete
Wherewith our God hath measur'd us.

I will not delve into the particulars on how to use a plumb to divine, but will suggest to those interested in exploring this use of a Masonic Jewel, that using the tracing boards like a chart of symbols may have interesting possibilities. I'd love to hear from you concerning your experiences.

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