[Square & Compasses]    

The Square and Compasses

People often ask about the Square and Compasses emblem of Masonry. The following explanation is based on a few of the questions and replies in the Letters Column.

The Square

The square is a builder's square, two equal flat-edged metal or wooden arms joined at a perfect "right angle" -- defined in geometry as 90 degrees or ½ π radians. It enables the stonemason, bricklayer, architect, or other builder to draw or prove perfect square corners in plans, carved stones, and corners.

The right angle is important in buildings, to make sure that stones and bricks are square, meeting and joining at the correct angle, so they don't crowd each other or lean improperly. Buildings will be stronger and reliable when angles are properly squared.

In Masonry, this is a symbol of our ability to use the teachings of conscience and morality to test or try the rightness of our actions. It is a symbol of the Golden Rule. After all, to deal "squarely" with someone is to treat them fairly and honestly, as we ourselves would want to be treated.

It also symbolizes the authority of the master of the workmen, whose perfect square was the standard against which all the other measuring squares on the building site were checked for accuracy. In early days, the simple geometric techniques for the construction of a perfect square was a secret kept and preserved by master builders, so the master (presiding officer) of a Mason's lodge still wears a square as his emblem.

The Compasses

The compasses are a device consisting of a pair of legs of equal length, fixed together at their apex by an adjustable hinge. It is used for drawing circles and circular arcs, and for taking or marking off distances along a line.

To Masons, the compasses symbolize our intention to draw a boundary line around our own desires and passions, and our determination to keep ourselves within that circle of self-restraint and moderation, which is the foundation of morality and wisdom.

Since classical times, compasses and the straight-edge (a plain unmarked ruler) have been the basic tools of geometry, used in proofs and constructions. Compasses symbolize the science of Geometry, which is the basis of architecture, and more generally is the symbol of mankind's ability to learn about the world around us.

The Letter 'G'

The letter G stands for a number of things, first of all "Geometry," which is the study of the order and beauty in mathematics and Nature, Humanity's first instructor in the arts and sciences.

That's a partial explanation, anyway. The longer a Mason thinks about the working tools of Masonry, the more and deeper meanings he comes to see in them.

And now you know.

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