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That Second Set of Tools

29 March 24

 By W Bro R Whiteley 

The Second Degree is perhaps the most important in Freemasonry, although not generally so regarded.

It is intended to provide for the new Craftsman an infallible charter for the development of a moral, useful and fulfilling life.

The wider objectives of the Degree are beautifully expressed by the Masonic writer, Rev Joseph Newton in the following passage:

 ‘What come you here to do. To discover myself, and how to rule and use the strange powers within my nature. To improve myself in the Art of Masonry by which the rough Ashlar of youth is wrought into the perfect Ashlar of manhood, noble and true; to learn to live with love and care upon the Level, by the Plumb and Square, to master my passions, and to win high praise of a character established in strength and wisdom, to find the meaning of life and its fulfillment in a beloved community, a brother and builder, fearless and free.’

The Degree confirms the candidate has learned and appreciates the lessons of his obligation as an Apprentice and secondly, instructs the candidate in his duties to God, his neighbour and himself and progressively to acquire the personal skills inculcated in the teachings of the working tools of the Degree; the Square, Level and the Plumb.

The Square is one of the oldest symbols known. It defines morality as those qualities of behaviour between men that demonstrate right from wrong within the accepted standards of society. No man who cheats or defrauds another can be said to be a Freemason in his heart. While he may be able to hide his unwanted actions from his fellow men he cannot hide them from God.

The Square can alternatively imply that an individual is either contemptuous, or is a right thinking man who demonstrates virtue and kind behaviour in his daily life. To a Freemason, to ‘act on the Square’ means telling the truth and being honest and fair in his dealings with his fellow men. It also implies he is living according to the laws of God, as well as those of the society in which he lives. It could also be said to be the ultimate compliment to be bestowed on a mason.

 Living by the Square does not imply seeking perfection. Rather, as an Operative Mason checks the quality of a stone for a new building, he seeks by use of the Square to ensure accuracy so each stone will fit evenly and vertically into the structure. Similarly, as masons we are counseled to check the pattern of our lives by the Square, not expecting to be perfect but to be judged as honourable, useful and respected members of society.

The Level, like the Square, is another very old symbol pointing to the invisible truths of faith and philosophy upon which rest the foundations of all monotheistic religions. It teaches us that in the sight of God, all men are equal, it is our duty as masons to respect equally those of different stations in life, economic circumstances, education or employment. Distinctions among men must cease to exist and equality and virtue be the guide to our thoughts and actions.

The Level, through recorded history, has been the tool by which Operative Masons measure and prove that horizontal surfaces are fit for their intended purpose. It teaches us as Speculative Masons to meet as brothers ‘on the level’, each having the same rights and responsibilities as citizens. While we cannot enjoy the same skills and abilities, we are each to be respected as individuals for our personal qualities.

The Plumb likewise is an ancient tool, equally as useful today, for accurately adjusting vertical surfaces. No building can be deemed to be safe and secure until all vertical walls are proved precisely perpendicular. In Masonry, the Plumb provides valuable guidance in our relationships with our fellow men and the society in which we live. It counsels us to demonstrate integrity and to be upright in all our dealings.

We should be clear in our mind what constitutes virtuous conduct according to the tenets of our Craft, not to accept any deviations either ‘to the right or the left’ from the principles we have set for ourselves in our actions with others. Most importantly, it dictates ‘not to be swayed by the possibility of adversity or seduced by the prospect of prosperity’ but to be consistent with our principles no matter what our position or welfare.

A most significant aspect of the working tools of the Second Degree is that these three elementary tools must be used in sequence when constructing a safe building and could be said to constitute a working trilogy. As no building can be successfully erected without their use, so no Freemason can achieve the ultimate objectives of our Craft unless he regulates his conduct through life according to their symbolism.

Diligently applied together, they enable the Craftsman to construct his own private temporal building, ‘one not made by hands, eternal in the heavens’, the ultimate hope of Freemasonry.

 To further quote Rev Dr Newton: THE FRANK WHIDDON GROUP ‘What do you desire most? To walk in the Light, to know the Truth, to live in the glory of an illuminated world, to ascend the winding staircase of knowledge to wider outlook and a greater freedom of mind, to be taught the seven arts and sciences of man and how to play the divine music on the harp of the senses, to enter the Chamber of Imagery where the symbols of God hallow our mortal life, casting over its days and fleeting hours an august memory and eternal hope.’

As Appeared in the Winter 2012, Freemason Magazine


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