On The Level
In November 1830, in the city of Limerick, an architectural engineer by the name of James Pain made a fascinating discovery. He had been contracted for the sum of £3,000 by the New Limerick Navigation Company to replace the ancient Baal’s Bridge (1340) that linked the Englishtown on King’s Island to the Irishtown area on the mainland.

During the excavation work on the original four-arch bridge; his workmen discovered in the northeast corner, under the foundation stone, an old brass plate much eaten away. This plate was in the shape of a stone mason’s square and engraved on the two sides were the words:
I will strive to live with love and care, Upon the level, by the square. 1507
Pain had just discovered one of the oldest Masonic relics in the world, physical evidence that freemasonry existed in Ireland as far back as the Middle Ages. He was just one in a long line of engineer Freemasons that stretches from ancient times to the present day.
The Baal’s Bridge Square can be viewed in North Munster Masonic Centre, Castle Street, King’s Island, Limerick. 
James Pain died on 13 December 1877, aged 98, and is buried in St Mary’s cathedral church in Limerick.

Next to the Square and Compasses, the Level and Plumb are among the noblest and simplest symbols of the Craft, and their meaning is so plain that it hardly needs to be pointed out.
The Level, so the newly made Mason is taught, is for the purpose of proving horizontals.

The great meaning of the Level is that it teaches equality, and that is a truth that needs to be carefully understood.

The US Declaration of Independence states that all men are “created equal”; however, we need to understand what it means to be equal. Certainly, not all men are equal in their
Physical health
Mental capabilities
Physical agility
Moral quality
How many of us could compete on the basketball court with one of the pro basketball players (e.g., Michael Jordan)?


My wife can create a painting in a few minutes that I don’t think I could duplicate even by attempting to copy her work.

We need poets to inspire, scientists to teach, pioneers to blaze the path to new lands. No doubt this was what Goethe meant when he said that it takes all men to make one man, and the work of each is the glory of all.

What, then does “on the level” mean? It is something better than a similarity of gifts and abilities. It is the equal right of each man to the full use and development of the gifts that he has, unhindered by injustice or oppression.

As our Declaration of Independence puts it, every man has an equal and inalienable right to “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness,” with due regard for the rights of others in the same quest.

It is in the free and friendly air of a Lodge of Masons, about an Altar of Obligation and Prayer, that the principle of equality finds its most perfect and beautiful expression. There, upon the Level, the Symbol of Equality, rich and poor, high and low, prince and plain citizen – men of diverse creeds, parties, interests, and occupations – meet in mutual respect and real regard, forgetting all differences of rank and station, and united for the highest good of all. “We Meet Upon the Level and Part Upon the Square;” titles, ranks, riches, do not pass the Inner Guard; and the humblest Brother is held in sacred regard, equally with the Brother who has attained the highest round of the wheel of fortune.

Every man in the Lodge is equally concerned in the building of the Temple, and each has his work to do. Because the task demands different gifts and powers, all are equally necessary to the work, the architect who draws the plans, the Apprentice who carries stones or shapes them with chisel and gavel; the Fellowcraft who polishes and deposits them in the wall, and the officers who marshal the workman, guide their labor, and pay their wages. Every one is equal to every other so long as he does good work, true work, square work.

Thus Masonry lifts men to a high level, making each a fellow-worker in a great enterprise, and if it is the best brotherhood it is because it is a brotherhood of the best.

John Petersen, PM



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