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SQUARE AND COMPASS

By Bro. B. C. Ward, Iowa

Worshipful Master and Brethren: Let us behold the glorious beauty that lies hidden beneath the symbolism of the Square and Compass; and first as to the Square. Geometry, the first and noblest of the sciences, is the basis on which the superstructure of Masonry has been erected. As you know, the word "Geometry" is derived from two Greek words which mean "to measure the earth," so that Geometry originated in measurement; and in those early days, when land first began to be measured, the Square, being a right angle, was the instrument used, so that in time the Square began to symbolize the Earth. And later it began to symbolize, Masonically, the earthly-in man, that is man's lower nature, and still later it began to symbolize man's duty in his earthly relations, or his moral obligations to his Fellowmen. The symbolism of the Square is as ancient as the Pyramids. The Egyptians used it in building the Pyramids. The base of every pyramid is a perfect square, and to the Egyptians the Square was their highest and most sacred emblem. Even the Chinese many, many centuries ago used the Square to represent Good, and Confucius in his writings speaks of the Square to represent a Just man.

As Masons we have adopted the 47th Problem of Euclid as the rule by which to determine or prove a perfect Square. Many of us remember with what interest we solved that problem in our school days. The Square has become our most significant Emblem. It rests upon the open Bible on this altar; it is one of the three great Lights; and it is the chief ornament of the Worshipful Master. There is a good reason why this distinction has been conferred upon the Square. There can be nothing truer than a perfect Square--a right angle. Hence the Square has become an emblem of Perfection.

Now a few words as to the Compass: Astronomy was the second great science promulgated among men. In the process of Man's evolution there came a time when he began to look up to the stars and wonder at the vaulted Heavens above him. When he began to study the stars, he found that the Square was not adapted to the measurement of the Heavens. He must have circular measure; he needed to draw a circle from a central point, and so the Compass was employed. By the use of the Compass man began to study the starry Heavens, and as the Square primarily symbolized the Earth, the Compass began to symbolize the Heavens, the celestial canopy, the study of which has led men to think of God, and adore Him as the Supreme Architect of the Universe. In later times the Compass began to symbolize the spiritual or higher nature of man, and it is a significant fact that the circumference of a circle, which is a line without end, has become an emblem of Eternity and symbolizes Divinity; so the Compass, and the circle drawn by the Compass, both point men Heavenward and Godward.

The Masonic teaching concerning the two points of the Compass is very interesting and instructive. The novitiate in Masonry, as he kneels at this altar, and asks for Light sees the Square, which symbolizes his lower nature, he may well note the position of the Compass. As he takes another step, and asks for more Light, the position of the Compass is changed somewhat, symbolizing that his spiritual nature can, in some measure, overcome his evil tendencies. As he takes another step in Masonry, and asks for further Light, and hears the significant words, "and God said let there be Light, and there was Light," he sees the Compass in new light; and for the first time he sees the meaning, thus unmistakably alluding to the sacred and eternal truth that as the Heavens are higher than the Earth, so the spiritual is higher than the material, and the spiritual in man must have its proper place, and should be above his lower nature, and dominate all his thoughts and actions. That eminent Philosopher, Edmund Burke, once said, "It is ordained that men of intemperate passions cannot be free. Their passions forge the chains which bind them, and make them slaves." Burke was right. Masonry, through the beautiful symbolism of the Compass, tells us how we can be free men, by permitting the spiritual within us to overcome our evil tendencies, and dominate all our thoughts and actions. Brethren, sometimes in the silent quiet hour, as we think of this conflict between our lower and higher natures, we sometimes say in the words of another, "Show me the way and let me bravely climb to where all conflicts with the flesh shall cease. Show me that way. Show me the way up to a higher plane where my body shall be servant of my Soul. Show me that way."

Brethren, if that prayer expresses desire of our hearts, let us take heed to the beautiful teachings of the Compass, which silently and persistently tells each one of us,

"You should not in the valley stay
While the great horizons stretch away
The very cliffs that wall you round
Are ladders up to higher ground.
And Heaven draws near as you ascend,
The Breeze invites, the Stars befriend.
All things are beckoning to the Best,
Then climb toward God and find sweet Rest."

-Source: The Builder October 1916


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