The Plumb Rule


The Plumb Rule

Author Unknown The jewels of the three principal officers of a Lodge are also
the working tools of the fellowcraft degree. They are the: PLUMB, LEVEL, and
SQUARE. Why are these jewels given these distinctions? There are two basic
reasons: First, in earlier times, the fellowcraft was the ultimate degree. There
was no Master Mason degree. The fellowcraft was the Journeyman of today. The
working tools of a fellowcraft were the tools of a master craftsman or
journeyman. When the master mason degree was instituted, other working tools
were selected to fulfill the ritual requirements. Secondly, while masonry makes
use of many esteemed working tools, (ie: Gavel, 24" gauge, trowel, skirret,
chisel, pencil, setting maul, etc..) it is the square, level and the plumb which
are the fundamental tools that are absolutely necessary to erect any edifice be
it physical or spiritual.

The plumb or plumb rule is an instrument of antiquity. The earliest craftsmen
used a weighted cord as a plumb. The Greeks of yore formed a bob of lead on a
cord and they gave it a name: MOLUBDOS, meaning lead. From this working tool
evolved the name MOLYBDENUM, the name of a well known metal. The ever practical
Romans took the word and latinized it to become PLUMBUM, the tool to measure
perpendiculars of structures, walls, aqueducts, and fortifications in every
corner of the roman empire. The Gauls adopted the tool, and their successors,
the Normans, shortened the word to PLOMB. The Britons added the letter "a" to
coin a new word: APLOMB, meaning not easily upset -- not off center. Later,
Englishmen revised the spelling to PLUMB and it became a verb as well as a noun.
Early English mariners used this tool. Shakespeare called it a plummet: "Deeper
than ere a plummet sounded." It was the French who began to call the lead bob a
ball. In French BOULE, meaning a ball of lead small leaden balls or boules were
the primitive BULLETS. The Latins modified the word to BULLA. They used very
small bullas which they compressed into a thin wafer, utilizing it as a legal
seal for documents. Thus was born the Papal BULL -- it is definitely not of
bovine origins!

While originally a simple lead weight on a string, the plumb, when required by
expert craftsmen, evolved into the shape of the Junior Wardents jewel, and
specifically adapted for operative stonemasons. It is interesting to note that
this jewel or tool is sometimes found to be richly embellished with symbols
(sun, moon, all-seeing eye, etc.) and at other times very plain.

Reference to the plumb arises throughout masonic rituals and books and
throughout the lore of masonic catch-questions: Examples:

Ques: How long have you been a mason?

Ans: Ever since I was raised from a dead level to a living perpendicular on the
squares by the hand of a friend, whom later I found to be a brother.

If you were to visit an American York Rite lodges you will find that in the FC
degree the VSL is opened on the book of Amos; and it contains an excellent
example of the beauty of the plumb: "Behold, the Lord stood upon a wall, with a
plumb line in his hand. He said: "Amos, what seeth thou?" Amos replied, "A plumb
line." The Lord said, "Behold, I will set a plumb line amidst my people Israel,
and I will pass by them nevermore."

To the operative masons, the level and plumb were intertwined, and together they
formed a square. Brethren, the plumb rule is an instrument used in architecture
by which a building is raised in a perpendicular direction; and it is figurative
of an upright and true course of life. It typifies care against any deviation
from the masonic upright line of conduct! If you apply the square to the level,
you get the PLUMB -- the living perpendicular esteemed by all true craftsmen,
and the emblem of growth and immortality. 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.

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.

Poem: by J.V.A. Andreae, a German and printed in 1623. Translated into English
by:- F.F. Schnitger and G.W. Speth

Brethren, I give to you one last reference, from Isaiah XXV, 16-17:

"Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a
stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that
believeth shall not make haste. Judgment also will I lay to the line; and
rightness to the plummet."