Article courtesy of: The Masonic Trowel Website.
Operative reasons use trowels to spread the cement or mortar which unites the bricks or stones of a building into a common
mass. The trowel is the instrument which is used to distribute the bonding material in the proper proportions between the
separate building units of a structure.
Speculative Masons are taught to regard the trowel as the principal tool of a Master Workman. Its symbolical use is to
spread the cement of brotherly love and affection; and it is no mere coincidence that the principal working tool of a Master
Mason is linked to the central purpose which Freemasonry has always proclaimed.
Obviously, Freemasons should be concerned with a figurative trowel, a symbol, which represents a certain kind of behavior,
a mode of conduct, which every Master Mason is charged to practice. In the transfer of ideas involved in such a metaphor, it
is clear that the individual Brother is being exhorted to become a trowel, which distributes in proper proportion the bonding
materials of brotherly love and affection. He is to be a force which helps to unite the divided human units of society into a
harmonious structure of civilization.
The founders of Speculative Freemasonry bequeathed to their followers a book of moral `charges. The “Ancient
Constitutions” mean little if they are not interpreted as such, with the underlying idea being the ancient virtue of humanitas,
the ability to express humane feelings, – kindness, gentleness, helpfulness, – by means of a benevolently disciplined
character which has achieved good breeding and culture, and which displays them through brotherly love.
The principal object of Freemasonry has always been to perfect the individual and to guide mankind toward a better, more
harmonious development. The individual Mason is a Builder on the Temple of Human Brotherhood; he is both the trowel
and the cement which combine the units of society into a cohesive whole. The brotherly love he extends to others is the
trowel; the appreciation and affection he arouses are the cement which helps to bind men closer to each other.
Clear as this central purpose seems to be in the ritual of Freemasonry, as well as in the teachings of Masonic thinkers in
every generation, one is often led to wonder how many Masons have really understood this fundamental idea of Masonic
humanitas. How many Brothers consciously use the trowel of brotherly love to spread the cement of appreciation and
Masonic brotherly love is not a mere sentimentality, which one puts on like an apron when one goes to lodge. The trowel of
brotherly love cannot be restricted to applying the mortar of good will when one is dealing with a Brother Mason. Brotherly
love is a mode of conduct to which a Builder trains his emotions and feelings, for which he learns to subdue his passions, so
that his trowel may spread the mortar of harmony among all men with whom he labors, not only Brother Masons.