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book i

the scholar the builders rejected

w. bro. j. s. m. ward

"By square conduct, level steps, and upright actions we may hope to ascend to those ethereal mansions whence all goodness emanates."

All through the ages the square has been regarded as the emblem of justice. In ancient Egypt when the gods appear as judges they are depicted as seated on chairs in which a square is carefully portrayed, and even in the ordinary speech of the outside world a square deal is the generally recognised term for a fair and just transaction. It is not surprising therefore to find that this implement plays a prominent part in our Masonic symbolism, in fact it is one of the very first tools to which the attention of the apprentice is directed after he has received the light.

It should be noticed, however, that the three working tools of a F.C. are also the characteristic jewels of the principal officers of the lodge, and since in every degree the candidate passes, as it were, in review before each of them, we immediately obtain a valuable symbolic lesson, namely, that we cannot make progress towards the light save by square conduct, level steps and upright actions.

There is not much difficulty in understanding the significance of the first and last phrases of the above sentences but sometimes there appears to be a little uncertainty as to the exact significance of the phrase, "level steps." This implies that our feet are planted firmly on the ground and therefore that we feel no uncertainty as to the direction in which we are moving, neither will the winds of adversity divert us from our path.

We know also that the level implies that there is a natural equality between brethren, and so in the phrase, "level steps," we are taught that we should go forward side by side with our fellow members, not trying to push the weaker to the wall, in order to achieve our goal irrespective of the claims of others. This fact is more significant than appears at first sight. In real life some men are more spiritually evolved or more intellectual than others, but we are taught hereby that instead of selfishly has tening on, such men should stay and help the weaker brethren, lending to them something of their intellectual ability or their spiritual insight so that they may keep pace with those more richly endowed. This is peculiarly brought out in the way that Officers work in a team for the good of the whole lodge and are promoted in rotation. It is, indeed, a valuable lesson! The spirit of esprit de corps is a high virtue and one which should particularly distinguish a Masonic lodge, and the spirit which will lea d a more evolved brother to pause on his journey to help a weaker one is deserving of cultivation. Moreover, it brings its own reward, for such an action is in the highest sense unselfish, and thus further increases the spiritual evolution of the man himself and brings him yet another step along the path which leads to the goal towards which we are all striving.

When we look round the outside world and see how commercial competition has produced a spirit wherein the weakest are thrust to the wall and men say, "Let the devil take the hindermost," we see, that this little phrase conveys, perhaps, one of the most important and salutary lessons needed by the present generation, and gives another example of the truly exalted moral teaching contained in every word and line of our craft rituals.

Indeed, this willingness to slow down one's own spiritual progress to help another is the essence of self-sacrifice, and has been the guiding principle which has inspired all the great spiritual teachers of the world in their efforts to advance the well-being of struggling humanity.

Now it is important to realise that this spirit of self-sacrifice succeeds to "square conduct." In other words, it is only when a man has learnt to be just to his fellow men that he can realise the next lesson, which is that he must be more than just, he must give up his own rights to help others. There would be nothing unjust in his outpacing his companions, but it would be selfish, or at any rate self-centred. For all that, it should be remembered that the square in some measure represents the letter G. , which stands for God, the Grand Geometrician of the Universe, the Just Judge. There are other aspects of the Deity which are perhaps more lofty, but, as the old Jewish teachers perceived, you must first make man realise that God is Just before you can convince him that He is something even greater than this, namely, a loving father.

Once, however, we have realised that God is just and that we are all partakers of the same nature, all equally His children, we shall perceive that we shall hardly be acting justly to our fellow men if we leave them behind in the race, and do not help and assist them so that all humanity may achieve the same goal.

The above facts also help us to understand the significance of the plumb line, itself an emblem of God's unerring justice, for they cause us to perceive that we must show forth the lessons we have learnt by upright actions. Unless we show by our actions in life that we have assimilated these important teachings, our knowledge is but vain, and herein it is interesting to note that the level and plumb rule, or, rather, the plumb line, will themselves form a square, thus showing that these three, symbols are a trinity and may-be refer to the triune nature of the Supreme Being.

We may at any rate feel sure that the brother who acts up to the principle of the square, level and plumb rule will not have laboured in vain in the terrestrial lodge, and on quitting it may reasonably hope that he will be permitted to enter that Temple not built with hands, eternal in the skies.

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Last modified: March 22, 2014