1. My Dues Card
2. I am Freemasonry
3. Your Masonic Lessons
4. When is a Man A Mason?
5. Language of the Heart
6. More Light
7. The Letter 'G'
8. The Master Stood and Looked...
9. The Ancient Square
10. On Yonder Book, an Oath I Took
I hold in my hand a little scrap of paper 2 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches in size. It is of no intrinsic worth, not a bond, not a check or receipt for valuables, yet it is my most priceless possession. It is my membership card in a Masonic Lodge.
It tells me that I have entered into a spiritual kinship with my fellow Masons to practice charity in word and deed; to forgive and forget the faults of my brethren; to hush the tongues of scandal and innuendo; to care for the crippled, the hungry and the sick, and to be fair and just to all mankind.
It tells me that no matter where I may travel in the world, I am welcome to visit a place where good fellowship prevails among brothers and friends.
It tells me that my loved ones, my home, and my household are under the protection of every member of this great Fraternity, who have sworn to defend and protect mine as I have sworn to defend and protect theirs.
It tells me that should I ever be overtaken by adversity or misfortune through no fault of my own, the hands of every Mason on the face of the earth will be stretched forth to assist me in my necessities.
And finally, it tells me that when my final exit from the stage of life has been made, there will be gathered around my lifeless body, friends and brothers who will recall to mind my virtues, though they be but few, and will forget my faults, though they may be many.
It tells me that, and a great deal more, this little card, and makes me proud yet humble, that I can possess this passport into a society of friends and brothers that are numbered in the millions.
I was born in antiquity, in the ancient days when men first dreamed of God. I have been tried through the ages, and found true. The crossroads of the world bear the imprint of my feet, and the cathedrals of all nations mark the skill of my hands. I strive for beauty and for symmetry. In my heart is wisdom and strength and courage for those who ask. Upon my altars is the Book of Holy Writ, and my prayers are to the One Omnipotent God, my sons work and pray together, without rank or discord, in the public mart and in the inner chamber. By signs and symbols I teach the lessons of life and of death and the relationship of man with God and of man with man.
My arms are widespread to receive those of lawful age and good report who seek me of their own free will. I accept them and teach them to use my tools in the building of men, and thereafter, find direction in their own quest for perfection so much desired and so difficult to attain. I lift up the fallen and shelter the sick. I hark to the orphans' cry, the widows tears, the pain of the old and destitute. I am not church, nor party, nor school, yet my sons bear a full share of responsibility to God, to country, to neighbor and themselves. They are freemen, tenacious of their liberties and alert to lurking danger. At the end I commit them as each one undertakes the journey beyond the vale into the glory of everlasting life.
I ponder the sands within the glass and think how small is a single life in the eternal universe. Always have I taught immortality, and even as I raise men from darkness into light, I am a way of life.
I am Freemasonry.
The End but actually, just the beginning.
Ray V. Denslow was Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Missouri in 1931.
You have heard that everyone should attend lodge on a regular basis. This was not said to increase the numbers in the columns or to make the master look good. Rather it is for your benefit, for none of us are so brilliant or intelligent that we can understand and absorb all the Masonic teaching that we got as we received our degrees. It is necessary to return to the lodge and see the degrees over and over again; and observe all the Masonic teaching that we got by observing the floor work and listen to the lectures. From the sidelines you can begin to learn parts of the ritual, aside from the proficiency lectures, a few words or a few sentences at a time. You will find it a profitable study because it will enrich your vocabulary and give you a better appreciation of some of the greatest philosophy in the world.
Until you were made a Master Mason you knew nothing except degree nights and degree work. As a Master Mason, you will find the stated meetings of equal or greater interest, for here the business of the lodge is carried on and it not only your privilege but your duty to contribute your voice as well as your vote in the decisions of your lodge.
A willingness to participate in the work is an attitude which all Masons should acquire. If you see a job to be done, volunteer to do it. If the Master asks you to do a job, never turn him down. It may be a humble task at first such as helping in the refreshment room, helping to set up lodge or serving on some obscure committee. Or, it may be an important job like coaching a candidate who is coming along the same road you traveled. Some times we are afraid to take a particular assignment or fearful that we won't do a good job. Not to worry. The Master would not ask you unless he had confidence that you would do a bang-up job.
The lodge is one place in the world where you can meet with all the brethren upon the level of equality. It is the place where you are accepted for that which is within rather than for an exalted position outside the lodge. Now is the time to show your attachment to our principles, particularly the principle tenant of Brotherly Love. The practice of Brotherly Love dictates that we should encourage the fallen brother and rejoice in another's success. This spirit of friendliness and helpfulness will demonstrate that you have learned your Masonic lessons well.
When he can look out over the rivers, the hills, and the far horizon with a profound sense of his own littleness in the vast scheme of things, and yet have faith, hope, and courage -- which is the root of every virtue.
When he knows that down in his heart every man is as noble, as vile, as divine, as diabolic, and as lonely as himself, and seeks to know, to forgive, and to love his fellowman.
When he knows how to sympathize with men in their sorrows, yea, even in their sins -- knowing that each man fights a hard fight against many odds.
When he has learned how to make friends and to keep them, and above all how to keep friends with himself.
When he loves flowers, can hunt birds without a gun, and feels the thrill of an old forgotten joy when he hears the laugh of a little child.
When he can be happy and high-minded amid the meaner drudgeries of life.
When star-crowned trees and the glint of sunlight on flowing waters subdue him like the thought of one much loved and long dead.
When no voice of distress reaches his ears in vain, and no hand seeks his aid without response.
When he finds good in every faith that helps any man to lay hold of divine things and sees majestic meanings in life, whatever the name of that faith may be.
When he can look into a wayside puddle and see something beyond mud, and into the face of the most forlorn fellow mortal and see something beyond sin.
When he knows how to pray, how to love, how to hope.
When he has kept faith with himself, with his fellowman, and with his God; in his hand a sword for evil, in his heart a bit of a song -- glad to live, but not afraid to die!
Such a man has found the only real secret of Masonry, and the one which it is trying to give to all the world.
Freemasonry teaches by symbols.
Why? Why does she veil in allegory and conceal in object or picture a meaning quite different from its name? Why should Freemasonry express immortality with acacia, brotherly love with a trowel, the world by a lodge, right living by a Mason?s tools? That Freemasonry conceals in symbols in order to arouse curiosity to know their meaning is often considered the only explanation. But there are many more lofty ideas of why this great system of truth, philosophy and ethics is hidden in symbols. It is hardly a matter of argument that man has a triple nature; he has a body, and senses which bring him into contact with, and translate the meanings of, the physical world, of earth, air, fire and water, which is about him.
He has a brain and a mind, by which he reasons and understands about the matters physical with which he is surrounded. And he has a Something Beyond; call it Soul, or Heart, or Spirit, or Imagination, as you will; it is something which is allied to, rather than a part of, reason, and connected with the physical side of life only through its sensory contacts. This soul, or spirit, comprehends a language which the brain does not understand. The keenest minds have striven without success to make this mystic language plain to reason.
When you hear music which brings tears to your eyes and grief or joy to your heart, you respond to a language your brain does not understand and cannot explain. It is not with your brain that you love your mother, your child or your wife; it is with the Something Beyond; and the language with which that love is spoken is not the language of the tongue. A symbol is a word in that language.
Translate that symbol into words which appeal only to the mind, and the spirit of the meaning is lost. Words appeal to the mind; meanings not expressed in words appeal to the spirit. All that there is in Freemasonry, which can be set down in words on a page, leaves out completely the spirit of the Order. If we depend on words or ideas alone, the fraternity would not make a universal appeal to all men, since no man has it given to him to appeal to the minds of all other men.
But Freemasonry expresses truths which are universal; it expresses them in a universal language, universally understood by all men without words. That language is the language of the symbol, and the symbol is universally understood because it is the means of communication between spirit, soul, hearts. When we say of Masonry that it is universal we mean the word literally; it is of the universe, not merely of the world.
If it were possible for an inhabitant of Mars to make and use a telescope which would enable him to see plainly a square mile of the surface of the earth, and if we knew it and desired, by drawing upon that square mile a symbol, to communicate with the inhabitants of Mars, we would choose, undoubtedly, one with as many meanings as possible; one which had a material, a mental and a spiritual meaning. Such a symbol might be the triangle, the square or the circle.
Our supposed Martian might respond with a complementary symbol; if we showed him a triangle, he might reply with the 47th problem. If we showed him a circle, he might set down 3,141659-the number by which a diameter multiplied becomes the circumference. We could find a language in symbols with which to begin communication, even with all the universe!
Naturally, then, Freemasonry employs symbols for heart to speak to heart. Imagination is the heart?s collection of senses. So we must appeal to the imagination when speaking a truth which is neither mental nor physical, and the symbol is the means by which one imagination speaks to another. Nothing else will do; no words can be as effective (unless they are themselves symbols); no teachings expressed in language can be as easily learned by the heart as those which come via the symbol through the imagination.Take from Freemasonry its symbols and you have but the husk; the kernel is gone.
He who hears but the words of Freemasonry misses their meaning entirely. Most symbols have many interpretations. These do not contradict but amplify each other. Thus, the square is a symbol of perfection, of rectitude of conduct, of honor and honesty, of good work. these are all different and yet allied. The square is not a symbol of wrong, or evil, or meanness or disease! Ten different men may read ten different meanings into a square, and yet each meaning fits with, and belongs to, the other meanings. Ten men have ten different kinds of hearts. Not all have the same power of imagination.
They do not all have the same ability to comprehend. So each gets from a symbol what he can. He uses his imagination. He translates to his soul as much of the truth as he is able to make a part of him. This the ten cannot do with truths expressed in words. " Twice two is equal to four" is a truth which must be accepted all at once, as a complete exposition, or not at all. He who can understand but the " twice" or the " equal" or the " four" has no conception of what is being said. But ten men can read ten progressive, different, correct and beautiful meanings into a trowel, and each be right as far as he goes.
The man who sees it merely as an instrument which helps to bind has a part of its meaning. He who finds it a link with operative Masons has another part. The man who sees it as a symbol of man?s relationship to Deity, because with it he (spiritually) does the Master?s work, has another meaning. All these meanings are right; when all men know all the meanings the need for Freemasonry will have passed away.
We use symbols because only by them can we speak the language of the spirit, each to each, and because they form an elastic language, which each man reads for himself according to his ability. Symbols form the only language which is thus elastic, and the only one by which spirit can be touched. To suggest that Freemasonry use any other would be as revolutionary as to remove her Altars, meet in the public square or elect by majority vote. Freemasonry without symbols would not be Freemasonry; it would be a dogmatic and not very erudite philosophy, of which the world is full as it is, and none of which ever satisfies the heart.
Goethe was one of the myriad-minded men of our race, and a devout member of our gentle Craft. When he lay dying, as the soft shadow began to fall over his mind, he said to a friend watching by his bed: " Open the window and let in more light!" The last request of a great poet-Mason is the first quest of every Mason.
If one were asked to sum up the meaning of Masonry in one word, the only word equal to the task is - Light! From its first lesson to its last lecture, in every degree and every symbol, the mission of Masonry is to bring the light of God into the life of man. It has no other aim, knowing that when the light shines the truth will be revealed.
A Lodge of Masons is a House of Light. Symbolically it has no roof but the sky, open to all the light of nature and of grace. As the sun rises in the East to open and rule the day, so the Master rises in the East to open and guide the Lodge, in its labor. All the work of the Lodge is done under the eye and in the name of God, obeying Him who made great lights, whose mercy endureth forever.
At the center of the Lodge, upon the Altar of Obligation, the Great Lights shine upon us, uniting the light of nature and the whiter light of revelation. Without them no Lodge is open in due form, and no business is valid. As the moon reflects the light of the sun, as the stars are seen only when the sun is hidden, so the lesser Lights follow dimly when the Greater Lights lead.
To the door of the Lodge comes the seeker after light, hoodwinked and groping his way--asking to be led out of shadows into realities; out of darkness into light. All initiation is "Bringing men to light," teaching them to see the moral order of the world in which they must learn their duty and find their true destiny. It is the most impressive drama on earth, a symbol of the divine education of man.
So through all its degrees, its slowly unfolding symbols, the ministry of Masonry is to make men "sons of light"--men of insight and understanding who know their way and can be of help to others who stumble in the dark. Ruskin was right: to see clearly is life, art, philosophy, and religion--all in one. When the light shines the way is plain, and the highest service to humanity is to lead men out of the confused life of the senses into the light of moral law and spiritual faith.
To that end Masonry opens upon its Altar the one great Book of Light, its pages aglow with "a light that never was on sea or land," shining through the tragedies of man and the tumults of time, showing us a path that shineth more and more unto the perfect day. From its first page to the last the key-word of the Bible is light, until, at the end, when the City of God is built, it has no need of the sun or the moon or the stars, for God is the light of it.
Turning its pages we read:
And God said, let there be light; and there was light God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. The entrance of Thy word giveth light. The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear. There is light for the righteous, gladness for the true. The Lord shall be to thee an everlasting light. To them that sat in darkness, light is sprung up. He stumbleth not, because he seeth the light. I am come a light into the world. While ye have the light believe in the light. Let your light shine before men.
To find the real origin of Masonry we must go far back into the past, back behind history. All the world over, at a certain stage of culture, men bowed down in worship of the sun, the moon, and the stars. In prehistoric graves the body was buried in a sitting posture, and always with the face toward the East, that the sleeper might be ready to spring up early to face the new and brighter day.
Such was the wonder of light and its power over man, and it is not strange that he rejoiced in its beauty, lifting up hands of praise. The Dawn was the first Altar in the old Light Religions of the race. Sunrise was an hour of prayer, and sunset, with its soft farewell fires, was the hour of sacrifice. After all, religion is a Divine Poetry, of which creeds are prose versions. Gleams of this old Light Religion shine all through Masonry, in its faith, in its symbols, and still more in its effort to organize the light of God in the soul of man. Such a faith is in accord with all the poetries and pieties of the race. Light is the loveliest gift of God to man; it is the mother of beauty and the joy of the world. It tells man all that he knows, and it is no wonder that his speech about it is gladsome and grateful. Light is to the mind what food is to the body; it brings the morning, when the shadows flee away, and the loveliness of the world is unveiled.
Also, there is a mystery in light. It is not matter, but a form of motion; it is not spirit, though it seems closely akin to it. Midway between the material and the spiritual, it is the gateway where matter and spirit pass and repass. Of all the glories of nature it the most resembles God in its gentleness, its benignity, its pity, falling with impartial benediction alike upon the just and the unjust, upon the splendor of wealth and the squalor of poverty.
Yes, God is light, and the mission of Masonry is to open the windows of the mind of man, letting the dim spark within us meet and blend with the light of God, in whom there is no darkness. there is "a light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world," as we learn in the Book of Holy Law; but too often it is made dim by evil, error, and ignorance, until it seems well nigh to have gone out.
Here now one of the most terrible words in the Bible: "Eyes they have, but they do not see." How many tragedies it explains, how many sorrows it accounts for. Most of our bigotries and brutalities are due to blindness. Most of the cruel wrongs we inflict upon each other are the blows and blunders of the sightless. Othello was blinded by jealousy, Macbeth by ambition, as we are apt to be blinded by passion prejudice, or greed.
With merciful charity Jesus saw that men do awful things without seeing what they do. "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." The pages of history are blacker then the hearts of the men that made history. Man is not as wicked as the wrongs he has done. Unless we see this fact, much of the history of man will read like the records of hell--remembering the atrocities of the Inquisition, the terrors of the French Revolution, and the red horror of Russia. It is all a hideous nightmare--man stumbling and striking in the dark.
No, Humanity is more blind than bad. In his play, St. Joan, Shaw makes one of his characters say: "If you only saw what you think about, you would think quite differently about it. It would give you a great shock. I am not cruel by nature, but I did a very cruel thing once because I did not know what cruelty was like. I have been a different man ever since." Alas, he did not see what he had done until the hoodwink had been taken off.
More and more some of us divide men into two classes--those who see and those who do not see. The whole quality and meaning of life lies in what men see or fail to see. And what we see depends on what we are. In the Book of Holy Law the verb "to see" is close akin to the verb "to be," which is to teach us that character is the secret and source of insight.
Virtue is vision; vice is blindness. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they see God." Thus our gentle Masonry, by seeking to "Bring men to light," not simply symbolically but morally and spiritually, is trying to lift the shadow of evil, ignorance and injustice off the life of man. It is a benign labor, to which we may well give the best that we are or hope to be, toiling to spread the skirts of light that we and all men may see what is true and do what is right.
What the sad world needs--what each of us needs--is more light, more love, more clarity of mind and more charity of heart; and this is what Masonry is trying to give us. Once we take it to heart, it will help us to see God in the face of our fellows, to see the power of a lie and its inherent weakness because it is false, to see the glory of truth and its final victory - to see these things is to be a Mason, to see these things is to be saved.
O Light that followeth all my way, I yield my flickering torch to Thee; My heart restores its borrowed ray, That is thy sunshine's blaze its day May brighter, fairer be.
Even a stranger, entering a Masonic Lodge room, as he may do on a public occasion, must be struck by a mysterious Letter which hangs over the chair of the Master in the East. No one need tell him its meaning; it is a letter of light and tells its own story. Yet no stranger can know its full import, much less how old it is. Indeed, few Masons are aware of all that it implies, either as symbol or history. There it shines, a focus of faith and fellowship, the emblem of the Divine Presence in the Lodge, and in the heart of each Brother composing it.
When the Lodge is opened, the mind and heart of each member should also be opened to the meaning of the great symbol, to the intent that its light and truth may become the supreme reality in our lives. when the Lodge is closed, the memory of that Divine initial and its august suggestions ought to be the last thought retained in the mind to be pondered over.
In English Lodges its meaning and use are made clearer than among us. There it shines in the center of the ceiling of the room, and the Lodge is grouped around it, rather than assembled beneath it. Below it is the checker work floor, symbol of the vicissitudes of life, over which hangs the white light of the Divine guidance and blessing, so much needed in our mortal journey.
Also, in the Degrees its use is more impressive. In the First and Second Degrees the symbol is visible in the roof, or sky, of the Lodge, like a benediction. In the Third Degree it is hidden, but its esence is still manifest-as every Mason knows-since the light of God is inextinguishable even in the darkest hours. In the Royal Arch it becomes visible again, but in another form and in another position, not to be named here.
Thus, in the course of the Degrees, the great Letter has descended from heaven to earth, as if to show us the deep meaning of Masonry. In other words, the purpose of initiation is to bring God and man together, and make them one. God becomes man that man may become God-a truth which lies at the heart of all religion, and most clearly revealed in our own. At bottom every form of faith is trying to lay hold of this truth, for which words were never made.
In all the old houses of initiation, as far back as we can go, some one letter of the alphabet stands our as a kind of Divine initial. In the Egyptian Mysteries it was the solar Ra, symbol of the spiritual Sun shining upon the mortal path. In the Greek Mysteries at Delphi it was the letter "E"-Eta-the fifth letter of the Greek Alphabet, five being the symbol of man, as evidenced by the five senses. Hence also the pentagram, or five pointed star. In olden time Fellowcraft Masons worked in groups of five, and five Brethren now compose one of their Lodges.
Plutarch tells us that in the Greek Mysteries the Letter Eta was make of wood in the First Degree, of bronze in the second Degree, and of gold in the third-showing the advance and refinement of the moral and spiritual nature, as well as the higher value to the truth unfolded. Many meanings and much history are thus gathered into the Great Letter, some of it dim and lost to us now. In our Lodges, and in the thought of the Craft today, the Letter G stands for Geometry and also as the initial of our Word God. Now for one, now for the other, but nearly always for both, since all Masonry rests upon Geometry, and in all its lore Geometry is the way to God.
Of the first of these meanings not much needs to be said. In the oldest Charges of the Craft, as in its latest interpretations it is agreed that Masonry is moral geometry. What was forever felt by philosophers and mystics in ancient times is now revealed to us by the microscope. It is an actual fact that Geometry is the thought-form of God in nature, in the snowflake and in the orbits of the stars.
Since this ancient insight is confirmed by the vision of science, in the most impressive manner the great Letter may stand as the initial of God, not alone by the accident of our language, but also and much more by a faith founded in fact. There is no longer any secret; it cannot be hid, because it is written in the structure of things, in all the forms which truth and beauty take.
Nor does Masonry seek to hide the fact that it rests on God, lives in God, and seeks to lead men to God. Everything in Masonry has reference to God, every lesson, every lecture, from the first step to the last degree. Without God it has no meaning, and no mission among men. It would be like the house in the parable, built on the sand, which the flood swept away. For Masonry, God is the first truth and the final reality.
Yet, as a fact, Masonry rarely uses the name of God. It uses, instead, the phrase, the Great Architect of the Universe. Of course such a phrase fits into the symbolism of the Craft, but that is not the only-not, perhaps, the chief-reason why it is used. A deep, fine feeling keeps us from using the name of Deity too often, lest it lose some of its awe in our minds.
It is because Masons believe in God so deeply that they do not repeat His name frequently, and some of us prefer the Masonic way in the matter. Also, we love the Masonic way of teaching by indirection, so to speak; by influenced and atmosphere.
Masonry, in its symbols and in its spirit, seeks to bring us into the presence of God and detain us there, and that is the wisest way. In nothing is Masonry more deep-seeing than in the way in which it deals with our attitude toward God, who is both the meaning and the mystery of life. It does not intrude, much less drive, in the intimate and delicate things of the inner life-like a bungler thrusting his hand into our heart-strings. No, all that Masonry asks is that we confess our faith in a Supreme Being. It does not require that we analyze or define in detail our thought of God.
Few men have formulated their profoundest faith; perhaps no man can do it, satisfactorily. It goes deeper than the intellect, down into the instincts and feelings, and eludes all attempts to put it into words. Life and love, joy and sorrow, pity and pain and death, the blood in the veins of men, the milk in the breast of woman, the laughter of little children, the coming and going of days, all the old, sweet, sad human things that make up our mortal life-these are the bases of our faith in God. Older than argument, it is deeper than debate; as old as the home, as tender as infancy and old age, as deep as love and death.
Men lived and died by faith in God long before philosophy was born, ages before theology has learned its letters. Vedic poets and penitential Psalmists were praising God on yonder side of the Pyramids, in Egypt, five thousand years ago, a poet king sang of the unity, purity and beauty of God, celebrating His presence revealed, yet also concealed, in the order of life.
No man can put such things into words much less into a hard and fast dogma. Masonry does not ask him to do so. All that it asks is that he tell, simply and humbly, in Whom he puts his trust in life and in death, as the source, security and sanction of moral life and spiritual faith; and that is as far as it seeks to go.
One thinks of the talk of the old Mason with the young nobleman who was an atheist, in the Tolstoy story, War and Peace. When the young count said with a sneer that he did not believe in God, the old Mason smiled, as a mother might smile at the silly saying of a child. Then, in a gentle voice, the old man said: "Yes, you do not know Him, sir. You do not know Him, that is why you are unhappy. But He is here, He is within me, He is in you even in these scuffing words you have just uttered. If He is not, we should not be speaking of Him, sir. Whom dost thou deny?"
They were silent for a spell, as the train moved on. Something in the old man touched the count deeply, and stirred in him a longing to see what the old man saw and know what he knew. His eyes betrayed his longing to know God, and the old man read his face and answered his unasked question: "Yes, He exists, but to know him is hard. It is not attained by reason, but by life. The highest truth is like the purest dew. could I hold in an impure vessel the pure dew and judge of its purity? Only by inner purification can we know God."
All these things-all this history and hope and yearning which defines analysis-Masonry tells us in a shining Letter which it hangs up in the Lodge. It is the wisest way; its presence is a prophecy, and its influence extends beyond our knowing, evoking one knows not what memories and meditations.
The Master stood and looked at his Lodge
And silently he thought:
Where have we failed that they're not here
In spite of the truth we taught?
Did they really want friendship and brotherly love
As they claimed when they knocked at our door?
Or did they just join, our symbol to wear,
And so won't come out any more?
The Master stood and looked at his Lodge
And said to the same old few:
"Come, Brothers, let's get them back-- Come,
we have work to do!"
And they went to work on the stay-at-homes,
And their efforts began to tell;
Old faces and new came out again,
And attendance started to swell.
The Master stood and looked at his Lodge,
No longer worried and blue;
His sheep were back in the fold again,
Sharing in the work... we all must do.
Made avalable by Brother Kingsley P. Thompson through the York Rite ListServ. Please pass it on.
What one symbol is most typical of Freemasonry as a whole? Mason and non-Mason alike, nine times out of ten, will answer, "The Square"
Many learned writers on Freemasonry have denominated the square as the most important and vital, most typical and common symbol of the Ancient Craft. Mackey terms it "one of the most important and significant symbols." McBride said: "-in Masonry or building, the great dominant law is the law of the square." Newton?s words glow: "Very early the square became an emblem of truth, justice and righteousness, and so it remains to this day, though uncountable ages have passed. Simple, familiar, eloquent, it brings from afar a sense of the wonder of the dawn, and it still teaches a lesson we find it hard to learn." Haywood speaks of: "-its history, so varied and so ancient, its use, so universal." MacKenzie: "an important emblem- passed into universal acceptance." In his encyclopedia, Kenning copied Mackey?s praise. Klein reverently denominates it "The Great Symbol." I Kings, describing the Temple, states that "all the doors and the posts were square."
It is impossible definitely to say that the square is the oldest symbol in Freemasonry; who may determine when circle, triangle, square, first impressed men's minds? But the square is older than history. Newton speaks of the oldest building known to man: "-a prehistoric tomb found in the sands at Hieraconpolis, is already right angled."
Masonically the word "square" has the same three meanings given the syllable by the world:
The earliest of the three meanings must have been the mathematical conception. As the French say, "it makes us furiously to think" to reflect upon the wisdom and the reasoning powers of men who lived five thousand years ago, that they knew the principles of geometry by which a square can be constructed.
Plato, greatest of the Greek philosophers, wrote over the porch of the house in which he taught: "Let no one who is ignorant of geometry enter my doors." Zenocrates, a follower of Plato, turned away an applicant for the teaching of the Academy, who was ignorant of geometry, with the words: "Depart, for thou has not the grip of philosophy." Geometry is so intimately interwoven with architecture and building that "geometry, or Masonry, originally synonymous terms" is a part of most rituals, the science of measurement is concerned with angles, the construction of figures, the solution of problems concerning both; and all rest upon the construction of a right angle, the solutions which sprang from the Pythagorean Problem, our "Forth-seventh Problem of Euclid," so prominent in the Master's degree.
The ancient Greek name of the square was gnomon, from whence comes our word "knowledge" The Greek letter gamma-formed like a square standing on one leg, the other pointing to the right -in all probability derived from the square, and gnomon, in turn, derived from the letter which was derived from the square which the philosophers knew was at the root of their mathematics.
Democritus, old philosopher, according to Clement of Alexandria, once exulted: "In the construction of plane figures with proof, no one has yet surpassed me, not even the Harpedonaptae of Egypt." The name means, literally, "rope stretchers" or "rope fasteners." In the Berlin museum is a deed, written on leather, dating back 2000 BC which speaks of the work of the rope stretchers; how much older rope stretching may be, as a means of constructing a square, is unknown, although the earliest, known mathematical handbook (that of Ahmes, who lived in the sixteenth or seventeenth Hyskos dynasty in Egypt, and is apparently a copy of a much older work which scholars trace back to 3400 BC) does not mention rope stretching as a means of square construction.
Most students in school days learned a dozen easy ways of erecting one line perpendicular to another. It seems strange that any people were even ignorant of such simple mathematics. Yet all knowledge had a beginning. Masons learn of Pythagoras' astonishment and delight at his discovery of the principle of the forty-seventh Problem, doubtless the first man who erected a square by stretching a rope was equally happy over his discovery.
Researches into the manner of construction of pyramids, temples and monuments in Egypt reveal a very strong feeling on the part of the builders for the proper orientation of their structures. Successfully to place the buildings so that certain points, corners or openings might face sun or star at a particular time, required very exact measurements. Among these, the laying down of the cross axis at a right angle to the main axis of the structure was highly important.
It was this which the Harpedonaptae accomplished with a long rope: The cord was first marked off in twelve equal portions, possible by knots, more probably by markers thrust into the body of the rope. The marked rope was then laid upon the line on which a perpendicular (right angle) was to be erected. The rope was pegged down at the third marker from one end, and another, four markers further on. This left two free ends, one three total parts long, one five total parts long. With these ends the Harpedonaptae scribed two semi-circles. When the point where these two met was connected to the first peg (three parts from the end of the rope), a perfect right angle, or square, resulted.
Authorities have differed and much discussion has been had, on the "true form" of the Masonic square; whether a simple square should be made with legs of equal length, unmarked with divisions into feet and inches, ore with one leg longer than the other and marked as are carpenter's squares today.
"It is proper that its true form should be preserved. The French Masons have almost universally given it with one leg longer than the other, thus making it a carpenter's square. The American Masons, following the delineations of Jeremy L. Cross, have, while generally preserving the equality of length in the legs, unnecessarily marked its surface with inches, thus making it an instrument for measuring length and breadth, which it is not. It is simply the trying square of a stonemason, and has a plain surface, the sides ore legs embracing an angle of ninety degrees, and is intended only to test the accuracy of the sides of a stone, and to see that its edges subtend the same angle.
Commenting on this the Editor of the Builder wrote (May, 1928): "This is one of the occasions when this eminent student ventured into a field beyond his own knowledge, and attempted to decide a matter of fact from insufficient data. For actually there is not, and never has been, any essential difference between the squares used by carpenters and stone workers. At least not such differences as Mackey assume. He seems to imply that French Masons were guilty of an innovation in making the square with unequal limbs. This is rather funny, because the French (and the Masons of Europe generally) have merely maintained the original form, while English speaking Masonry, or rather the designers of Masonic jewels and furnishings in English speaking countries, have introduced a new form for the sake, apparently, of its greater symmetry.; From medieval times up till the end of the eighteenth century, all representations of Mason's squares show one limb longer than the other. In looking over the series of Masonic designs of different dates it is possible to observe the gradual lengthening of the shorter limb and the shortening of the longer one, till it is sometimes difficult to be certain at first glance if there is any difference between them."
There is absolutely no difference in the use of the square in different crafts. In all the square is used to test work, but also to set it out. And a square with a graduated scale on it is at times just as great a conveyance for the stonemason as for the carpenter. When workmen made their own squares there would be no uniformity in size or proportions, and very few would be graduated, though apparently this was sometimes done. It is rather curious that the cut, which illustrates this article in Mackey?s Encyclopedia, actually shows a square with one limb longer than the other.
It is noted that old operative squares were either made wholly of wood, or of wood and metal, as indeed, small try squares are made today. Having one leg shorter than the other would materially reduce the chance of Accident destroying the right angle which was the tool's essential quality. So that authorities who believe our equal legged squares not necessarily "True Masonic squares" have some practical reasons for their convictions.
It is of interest to recall McBride's explanation of the "center" as used in English Lodges, and the "point" familiar to us. He traces the medieval "secret of the square" to the use of the compasses to make the circle from which the square is laid out. Lines connecting a point, placed anywhere on the circumference of a circle, to the intersections with the circumference cut by a straight line passing through the center of the circle, form a perfect square. McBride believed that our "point within a circle" was a direct reference to this early operative method of correcting the angles in the wooden squares of operative cathedral builders, and that our present "two perpendicular lines" are a corruption of the two lines which connect the point on the circumference with opposite points on the circle.
The symbolism of the square, as we know it, is also very old; just how ancient, as impossible to say as the age of the tool or the first conception of mathematical "squareness." In 1880 the Master of Ionic Lodge No. 1781, at Amoy, China, speaking on Freemasonry in China, said: "From time immemorial we find the square and compasses used by Chinese writers to symbolize precisely the same phrases of moral conduct as in our system of Freemasonry. The earliest passage known to me which bears upon the subject is to be found in the book of History embracing the period reaching from the twenty-fourth to the seventh century before Christ. There is an account of a military expedition we read: Ye officers of government, apply the Compasses! In another part of the same variable record a Magistrate is spoken of as: a man of the level, or the level man."
The public discourses of Confucius provide us with several Masonic allusions of a more or less definite character. For instance, when recounting his own degrees of moral progress in life, the Master tells us that only at seventy- five years of age could he venture to follow the inclinations of his heart without fear of "transgressing the limits of the Square." This would be 481 BC but it is in the words of his great follower, Mencius, who flourished nearly two hundred years later, that we meet with a fuller land more impressive Masonic phraseology. In one chapter we are taught that just as the most skilled artificers are unable, without the aid of the square and compasses, to produce perfect rectangles or perfect circles, so must all men apply these tools figuratively to their lives, and the level and the marking-line besides, if they would walk in the straight and even paths of wisdom, and keep themselves within the bounds of honor and virtue. In Book IV we read: "The Compasses and Square are the embodiment of the rectangular and the round, just as the prophets of old were the embodiment of the due relationship between man and man."
In Book VI we find these words: "The Master Mason, in teaching his apprentices, makes use of the compasses and the square. Ye who are engaged in the pursuit of wisdom must also make use of the compasses and the square."
In the GREAT LEARNING, admitted on all sides to date from between 300 to 400 years before Christ, in Chapter 10, we read that a man should abstain from doing unto others what he would not they should do unto him: "This," adds the writer, "is called the principle of acting on the square."
Independently of the Chinese all peoples in all ages have thought of this fundamental angle, on which depends the solidity and lasting quality of buildings, as expressive of the virtues of honesty, uprightness, morality. Confucius, Plato, the Man of Galilee, stating the Golden Rule in positive form, all make the square an emblem of virtue.
In this very antiquity of the Craft's greatest symbol is a deep lesson; the nature of a square is an unchanging as truth itself. It was always so, it will always be so. So, also are those principles of mind and character symbolized by the square; the tenets of the builders' guild expressed by a square. They have always been so, they will always be so. From their very nature they must ring as true on the farthest star as here.
So will Freemasonry always read it, that its gentle message perish not from the earth.
On yonder book, that oath you took, and you should break it never,
But stand by (point to step of E.A.) this, and (give D-G of E.A.) this, and (give P-S of E.A.)this, forever and forever.
You swore to answer and Obey,
The Summons sent you duly,
My Brothers hand or Lodge array,
You swore that you would never stray
From laws and rules that bound,
Freemasons in the days renowned,
But would observe them truly.
On yonder book that oath you took, and you should break it never,
But stand by (point to step of F.C.) this, and (give D-G of F.C.) this, and (give P-S of F.C.)this, forever and forever.
You swore in charity to care
For all with sorrow smitten,
The Brother on the darkened square,
The Widow, full of grief and care,
The sorrowing orphan doomed to stray
On life's cold path and cheerless way
While tears gush forth unbidden.
On yonder book that oath you took, and you should break it never,
But stand by (point to step of M.M.) this, and (give D-G of M.M.) this, and (give P-S of M.M.)this, forever and forever.
You swore to deal in honesty
With each true heart around you
That honour bright should ever be
The unbroken bond, twixt him and thee'
Nor wrong, nor guile, nor cruel fraud
Should ever break or loose that holy chord
With which these vows have bound you.
On yonder book that oath you took, and you should break it never,
But stand by (give D-G of E.A.) this, and (give D-G of F.C.) this, and (give D-G of M.M.)this, forever and forever.
You swore the chastity to shield
Of women true and tender
A brothers wife, A brothers child
His Mother, Sister, Undefiled
Those, pure of heart, whose love
Makes Masons' homes like heaven above
You are their sworn defender.
On yonder book, three oaths you took and you should break them never,
But stand by (give G.M.S.O.D. 1st motion) this, and (give 2nd motion) this, and (give 3rd motion)this, forever and forever.
These are our vows, be these our care,
And may such light be given
In answer to our earnest prayer
That we may ever do or dare.
All that Gods gracious laws enjoin
That, so, when shades of night decline.
We may be found in heaven.
On this fair book these vows we all took and we should break them never.
But stand by (point to Great Lights) this, and (point to Lesser Lights) this, and (point to the letter 'G') this, forever and forever.