The Masonic Trowel

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by Oger L. Terry
Past Master of Union Lodge #2 in Madison, IN, and Past Grand Steward and Tyler

Last Modified: April 02, 2014

If I were to paint a portrait of a Mason, I would start with a canvas woven of threads from around the world to show the universality of Masonry. The warp and woof would be tight, because Masons are united tightly by the ties of brotherhood. The material would be of the highest quality to ensure survival into eternity, for as Masonic principles have endured since time immemorial, they will persist into time inconceivable.

The canvas would be pure white, unspotted by the world, because it represents the lambskin or white leather apron, an emblem of innocence and the badge of a Mason, its pure and spotless surface being symbolic of purity of life and conduct. As white is the reflection of every color in the rainbow, so the white canvas should reflect the individuality of each Mason within the brotherhood of men.

Although many colors will be added, its white surface must be a reminder that Masonry regards no man for his worldly wealth or honors and that the internal – not the external – qualifications of a man should render him worthy to be made a Mason.

If I were to paint a portrait of a Mason, I would start with the color gold, representing deity, because every Mason is taught that no man should enter upon any great or important undertaking without first invoking the blessings of deity. I would use many shades of reds and blacks and whites and yellows and browns, representing all the races of the world, because Masons are taught that the whole human species is one family – the high and low, the rich and poor, created by one Almighty Parent – and inhabitants of the same planet.

But I would especially use lots of blue, because blue is symbolic of beliefs, and beliefs are what distinguish a Mason. My Masonic figure would be painted with a belief in the Ancient Landmarks: monotheism; immortality; the Book of the Sacred Law; plus additional beliefs and obligations which contain nothing which conflicts with his duties to God, his country, his neighbors, or himself.

Being mindful of our country’s motto – e pluribus unum, one from many – I would strive to blend my colors so as not to lose the essential character of each one, because Masonry is a unitas multiplex – a unity out of diversity.

Because Masonry values the integrity of each individual, my Masonic portrait would look like no other Mason. Yet it would resemble all men who chart their travels by the Sacred Volume in pursuit of further light.

I would paint him as a temple builder, because Master Masons endeavor to fit themselves as a dwelling place for the Supreme Architect according to the grand design of the Celestial Trestleboard Trestleboard above. He would be facing East for, as the sun rises in the East to light the day, so rise the Inspiration and Light in the East to guide all his endeavors.

If I were to paint a portrait of a Mason, I would enclose it in a frame fashioned with all the working tools of Masonry indiscriminately, because Masons are admonished to apply their working tools of life for the noble and glorious purpose of framing their actions with the frame of rectitude. The construction would be guided by the square and compass, for should all Masons square their actions and circumscribe their passions.

The four sides of the frame would be composed of the Cardinal Virtues of a Mason, for should all Masons be bounded by Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence, and Justice.

And because the individual Mason gains strength from his lodge, the frame will be painted as an Indented Tessel, representing the beautiful tesselated border or skirting which surrounded the ground floor of King Solomon’s Temple, emblematical of those blessings and comforts which surround us and which we hope to obtain by a firm reliance on Divine Providence.

If I were to paint a portrait of a Mason, I would support it on an easel of acacia, that tree which serves to remind us of that imperishable part of man which survives the grave, and bears the nearest affinity to the supreme intelligence which pervades all nature, and which can never, never, never die.

The three legs of the easel would represent the pillars of Masonry, because there must be Wisdom to contrive, Strength to support, and Beauty to adorn all great and important undertakings. The legs would be painted with the tenets of a Mason’s profession. Thus should all Masons support brother Master Masons, their widows and orphans with Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth.

If I were to paint a portrait of a Mason, I would work with freedom, fervency, and zeal, because that is how all men should serve their Master. I would ask only for the emblematical wages of plenty, health, and peace, because the making of a Mason is a spiritual, not a worldly undertaking.

When my portrait of a Mason was completed, I would display it openly in public, rather than only in a lodge room, so the whole community could appreciate its worth. And I would dedicate it to the glory of the Grand Artist of the Universe, with confidence that He would say that, thus painted, there stands a just and upright Mason, worthy to adorn that spiritual building, that house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

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Last modified: April 02, 2014