Metaphors to Mortar 1: Begin Anew

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Erik Marks

An integral aspect of Masonry is applying the metaphors with which we work to our daily lives—to operationalize the speculative in every moment. Whether or not there is proof the metaphors are real or possible, treating them as such has powerful implications on the psyche. To experiment and build with them is to see how they affect the way one interacts with the world; living the metaphor in action changes how one conducts the self.

Mortar is the glue that holds the blocks of the building together. When the individual relates to the everyday world through the medium of our metaphor and lessons therein, contemplation of aspects of self through the speculative becomes the Mortar for the construction of the individual’s temple.

Raising and resurrection:
The metaphor of the candidate embodying the Grand Master being Raised is for many a high point in the process. I'm using the ideas, as does the craft, of death, raising or resurrection for the basis for a psychological, cognitive, and spiritual process to inspire and create change in the here and now within the individual man. The ritual implies one can be "reborn" at any, every, moment, we always have another chance to do the right thing, get it right. It teaches it is possible to be “reborn” into higher states of consciousness and spiritual awakening(s). Through the metaphor in action, we receive instruction the work of change takes preparation, effort, and practice—and isn’t without barriers and challenges. Within the frame of the ritual, it is with the aid of the Worshipful Master. We could take his representation to imply with the aid of Brothers, Friends, Family, or as a representation of our higher or ideal self, maybe the Grand Architect. Elaborating the interpretation: the metaphoric death might be a mis- or missed- step, an error or failing in everyday life. When we keep the Oath and practice close in the moment, the sprig is always nearby. Staying grounded, contemplative, we have the opportunity to search ourselves and find the way to save the moment—even if we return to the scene some measure of time after the incident. We have the opportunity to act with integrity and justice. Through practice and repetition, we can make real-life changes in how we respond next time around.

While considering ways to operationalize the changes to a recently Raised self, I was reminded of two ideas: "if [people] pray for courage, does God give them courage? Or [are they given] opportunities to be courageous?" and "There is no way to Love, Love is the way." The former is a quote by Morgan Freeman in the movie Evan Almighty. The latter is by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist Monk. For the words courage and love, one could replace with: Peace, Kindness, Charity, Justice, Integrity, etc. Taken together, all challenging situations are opportunities and underscore intentional practice. Words are the currency of our lives and our minds. Words are the medium of our ideas, exchanges, vows, oaths, what soothes and enrages us. So, changing a word in how we talk with ourselves and others creates change within our metaphoric operating system code—changing the words has power. Which is why we don’t often change the words in the ritual, because then we change the meaning and effect.

If you choose to conduct these experiments, it is possible for them to remain fully hidden, secret, from the world around you unless you choose to disclose to an other. Keeping the "secret," of this opportunity reframe, strengthens its function on the self. If it is assumed the past me acted a certain way and cannot change because of the historical fact, then present me is more likely to also be stuck and cannot change. However, if reality is accepted along with the idea that rebirth (forgiveness? Self-compassion?) is possible, then hope returns, work on ashlar resumes, and growth and change may occur; The search may commence along with the opportunity to be raised towards an intended, ideal, obligated, self, and be born into a newer version or world.


Though this concept is not overtly embedded in our ritual, taken as an extension of the above, it can be a potent metaphor and speculative tool through which to embody our Masonic obligations. The concept of reincarnation leads me to wonder how I would change my behavior if I treated everyone around me as living represntations of spirits or souls with whom I've interacted in other lifetimes and in other stations in life. Further, I could consider this an iterative process that goes on and on until we find "liberation" from the cycle of death and rebirth, in which my station in the next is mediated by my action in the present. So, I end up with a world populated by people who have always been here with me, but our relationships are changed in each "birth." Now things get interesting, speculatively speaking. Each person could be experienced as a former or future Brother, family member, a parent or child from another, or future, life. I might change how I react to someone who presents to me in a manner I dislike. I could be kinder, more charitable if I assume a greater obligation to the person with whom I’m confronted. Or I might find a way to help them stay engaged—assuming I wanted to live my Masonic obligation in that moment (though aren't we really always on duty (another post perhaps)). Mortar is never off duty—it is always there, holding the building together

Presentation of the hand:
When the Worshipful Master of the lodge greets us, a newly made Mason, a fellowcraft, a master, he offers us his hand. He reaches out to express his love and affection on his own behalf and the brethren of the lodge. It is welcoming. It is accepting. It is an offering. It is a metaphor. Regardless of country of birth or station in life, there are repeated offerings of connection, openness, and affirming equity. The Master of the Lodge shows he is willing to welcome and meet the brethren, whom he serves on the checkered floor of life with an open hand. For the year (or years as the case may sometimes be) in the East, he sets forth the plan on the trestle board and offers it to the brethren. The hand as trowel, the master models the application of mortar between brethren in plain sight and good faith. Despite what is to come in life, the temple will continue to be built.

In one form of dream interpretation, all content of the dream may be seen as representations of the dreamer. We could take the above literal welcoming as a metaphor in like manner: the wiser, stronger, more beautiful representation of self, welcomes the rough to be worked into its own image. Through the hope of raising and resurrection, the aspects of ourselves we seek to perfect are always welcomed to the work. We do not disavow, deny, reject them. Otherwise, they become split off and neglected, undeveloped and wasted. Even worse, the despised or disavowed part(s) becomes an anti-masonic detractor seeking to tear down the temple in self-sabotage! Therefore the Master of his own temple greets the rough aspects of himself openly, lovingly, with curiosity and care, to treat charitably as he would a brother in need of relief. This can be hard work, by the way. When he accepts the stone as it is, he begins the work of shaping (behavior, habit, etc.), fitting it into place anew, and applying the mortar so the temple may be built toward perfection.


Brother Erik Marks is a clinical social worker whose usual vocation has been in the field of human services in a wide range of settings since 1990. He was raised in 2017 by his biologically younger Brother and then Worshipful Master in Alpha Lodge in Framingham, MA. You may contact brother Marks by email:

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