The Datum

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Scott S. Dueball

On a cool, October Monday evening a group of Brothers from the Northeastern Area of Illinois filled the Libertyville Lodge for a night of Masonic Education presentations. Due to my inability to review the casual dress instructions I donned my bowtie and gray 3 piece suit. I was giving a talk that I had given previously but never to more than 2 or 3 Entered Apprentices. In this talk, I covered many of the functional aspects of the 1st Degree with the hope of peeling back a layer or two for the new Mason. Feeling as if I had run a bit long I scrolled toward the end of my notes to the last element of the degree. I quickly decided that I would press on to the finish line.

“Is anyone else here a drafter or engineer?” I asked. Those of you in these occupations might be familiar with the concept of a datum. A datum is a point, line or face to which all (or many) of a design’s dimensions relate. This ends being the face or feature that is lined up in a tool or jig to ensure consistent and accurate manufacturing proportions. If that face is not perfectly plane or perfectly loaded into a jig, the machine process will result in an inaccurate part. Even slight inaccuracies can render a part useless to the larger assembly.

The same rules apply in architecture and stonemasonry. Each brick has a specific shape that must be cut. The architect has selected a space for an individual brick which dictates the length, width, and depth. Not only do corners need to be perfectly square but the opposing faces must be parallel. One can envision what might happen when slight inaccuracies are extrapolated across the entire span of a wall. This will result in crooked, wavy, or leaning walls--anything but straight and true.

Equally important is how the bricks are oriented in the assembly of a wall. The bricklayer sets the first stone--traditionally in the northeast corner. That first stone must be cut perfectly and set perfectly square to the plot of the design. However, a perfect brick set imperfectly will yield imperfection. If this stone is set cooked by even a degree, the consequence could be inches or feet at the far end of the wall.

This crookedness has both aesthetic and functional implications. Imagine if a single brick in the Capital build were set imperfectly. The structure would lack symmetry. It would appear shoddy. This would also impact the interior layout and the amount of materials purchased according to the plans. Both can be catastrophic to the overall project.

The same is true about speculative Freemasonry. The youngest Entered Apprentice is set in the northeast corner of the lodge. At that point he is told that his stone is unblemished. There he stands a just and upright Mason no longer bound to the errors and mistakes of his previous life. He is the new datum of the lodge just as every other cornerstone in history. The Worshipful Master “sets” him in the perfect position and the Lodge supports his continued development as the walls are erected from his example. The future edifice of his life and this Lodge will measure back to the original direction and support he was given. The newest Mason represents the future of the lodge and we must make sure to point him in the true direction of the Great Architect’s plan. This includes mentoring and instructing him on the lessons of our degrees. We have seen how the Craft can drift from the teachings when we have reduced the importance of supporting each brick in the wall. If the Entered Apprentice is not given proper support or set in the right position, the span of his life will increasingly err. This error creates deviation from the Great Architect’s plan.

The next time you see this ceremony in the 1st Degree, I encourage you to reflect on what it means for the future of the Craft. Consider the role you play in supporting that man and thus the Lodge. Lastly, consider how this new Mason may be measured to the datum you set not so long ago.


WB Scott S. Dueball is the Worshipful Master of D.C. Cregier Lodge No. 81 in Wheeling, IL and holds a dual membership in Denver Lodge No. 5 in Denver, CO. He currently serves the Grand Lodge of Illinois as the State Education Officer. Scott is also a member of the Palatine York Rite bodies and the Valley of Chicago A.A.S.R.-N.M.J. He is passionate about the development of young masons, strategy and visioning for Lodges. He can be reached at

1 comment:

  1. Great article brother. I really zeroed in on the analogy and will be reading this in my lodge's next stated meeting for our education piece.

    I specifically took away the idea that Lodges need to be much more deliberate in setting the right example for our new brethren. For example if, after giving them their degree we trivialize the importance of the memory work, don't stress the importance of viewing the degrees with reverence, try to fast-track them in to a Deacon's chair, etc- then what kind of a future building can we expect to have? These are potentially the future leaders of the lodge.

    So much to teach us in this article! Thanks again


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