Contemplative Cornerstone: An Upright Zeal

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Erik Marks

File:Roman plumb bob.jpg

In this installment, I wanted to offer a practice based in the plumb line connecting heaven and earth. The line we hear from Amos of God: “I will set a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel.” C. H. Spurgeon, who was published in the Sword and Trowel in the 1800's, offers three interpretations of this statement:

I) To measure the uprightness of a wall, or in our case, that of an individual stone.

2) In the construction of the individual stone temple or the larger temple between, and for men.

3) In the leveling or destruction of said walls, stones, or temples when not morally or ethical verticality.

Though there was no evidence that Spurgeon was a Freemason, people may have suspected then and continue to speculate to this day. Our regular usage of the plumb is offered in these interpretations, but also, the use of the plumb or plumb line to determine when correction, or even demolition is needed to build anew.

We read in President Brother George Washington’s farewell address to the nation: “…that, after Forty-Five years of my life dedicated to [our nation’s] service with an upright zeal…” In this statement we observe two masonic ideas, that of being upright, upstanding, or of moral or ethical rectitude; and the idea of zeal. The word zeal comes into usage in or around the 14th century and which we today know as an eagerness or ardent interest in pursuing something.

Taken to an extreme, and without uprightness or moral compass, zeal turns someone into a zealot: a fanatical partisan; something our first president was not and warned against in his farewell address. To the negative, zealous outcome, masonry has safeguards. The plumb or plumb line direct us towards both measuring our truth and its dispensation against the morals and ethics of our chosen religion and the ideals of masonry in harmony with one another. When upright zeal turn to a zealous departure from the common good, the plumb line will surely indicate the need for correction.

Therefore, our contemplation regarding standing uprightly could similarly and regularly test, in a practical or living way, our uprightness using the metaphor. First, Am I living in alignment with my professed ideals? Second, am I building a life in harmony with and for my neighbors and myself—are we aligning one another, righteously and harmoniously, or disrupted by discord? And third, am I willing to tear down my internal walls in the service of correcting wrongs I have imposed on self, an other, or society?

For this practice, stand. Taking three long, slow, deep breaths, center yourself to the here and now. Rock gently from front to back until you find the right center point of balance. Do the same rocking side to side until you find the right Center Point of balance. Continuing to focus on the breath, drop all other thought from your inner dialogue. As you exhale the third time, imagine a line of light stretching from the highest reaches of heaven to the center of the earth, directly through your torso. Is your spine aligned? Is your mind aligned with breath, body, spirit? Are your thoughts aligned with the ideals you hold towards being a force of good in the world as a mason? Are your words and actions aligned with the vows, obligations, and sacraments?

In this state, you could choose to recite in your mind the obligation from a degree or focus on one part of a degree obligation. It could be a part that pertains to something that happened the day before, if your practice is in the morning. Or, if you are practicing in the evening, from that day. Does the activity of the day align uprightly with the words to which you have obligated yourself? This practice can be employed at any time. The more we practice grounding and centering the more rapidly our mind will settle into a state of contemplative dialogue with our chosen section of ritual or obligation.

Please consider these other sources about the plumb and plumb line in your deliberations: STB!


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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