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Square and Compasses

Square and Compasses

The immovable sides of the square represents matter.

  • The square is a symbol for morality, honesty and fair dealing. The square illustrates the duties freemasons owe to each other and to society.

The adjustable compasses represent consciousness.

  • The compasses symbolise truth and loyalty, reminding freemasons to keep within due bounds.

Medieval cathedral builders frequently depicted Christ with the plumb line, compasses and square in his hands. In the Cathedral of Santa Croce in Florence, Jesus stands above the main portal holding the builder's square as a sign of his divine creative power.

In modern freemasonry, ethical principles are illustrated using the working tools of stonemasons. Illustrating ethical principles using the working tools of skilled craftsmen of various occupations has a long tradition reaching back to the medieval craft guilds. In the preface of the first officially approved English Bible, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, presented the mallets, hammers, saws, chisels, axes, and hatchets used by the smith, mason, or carpenter, or any other handy craftsman as symbols of the instruments of our salvation to be found by reading the holy scriptures:

But now to let pass custom, and to weigh - as wise men ever should - the thing in his own nature. I exhort you, that when ye be at home in your houses, ye apply yourselves from time to time to the reading of holy scriptures. Let no man make excuse and say, I am busied about matters of the commonwealth; I bear this office, or that; I am a craftsman, I must apply mine occupation. I have a wife, my children must be fed, my household must I provide for. Briefly, I am a man of the world. Is it not for thee to study and to read the scripture, because thou art encumbered and distracted with cares and business? So much the more it is behoveful for thee to have defense of scriptures, how much thou art the more distressed in worldly dangers. Thou art in the midst of the sea of worldly wickedness, and therefore thou needest the more of ghostly succor and comfort! Thou that standest in the forefront of the host, and nighest to thine enemies, must needs take now and then many strokes, and be grievously wounded, and therefore thou hast most need to have thy remedies and medicines at hand. Thy wife provoketh thee to anger; thy child giveth thee occasion to take sorrow and pensiveness; thine enemies lie in wait for thee; thy friend (as thou takest him) sometime envieth thee; thy neighbor misreporteth thee or picketh quarrels against thee; thy mate or partner undermineth thee; thy lord, judge, or justice, threateneth thee; poverty is painful unto thee; the loss of thy dear and wellbeloved causeth thee to mourn; prosperity exalteth thee, adversity bringeth thee low. Briefly, so divers and so manifold occasions of cares, tribulations, and temptations, beset thee and besiege thee round about. Where canst thou have armor or fortress against thine assaults? Where canst thou have salves for thy sores but of holy scripture?


Letter G

The letter G may be combined with the square and compasses and is variously described as representing the Deity or geometry.

In the eighteenth century is was usual to find the phrase, Greeting in God Everlasting on Lodge Charters. By the nineteenth century the expression Great Architect of the Universe was more widely used.

On the Square

Freemasonry eliminates anxieties and turbulent passions, restrains desires and appetites, and banishes cowardice from baser spirits. Yet it does not possess equal power in everyone but is most productive when it meets with a receptive and suitable nature. Freemasonry does not bear the same fruit in everyone. Just as carefully cultivated fields are not equally productive, but vary according to the quality of the soil, so freemasons improve according to their natural disposition.

on the square

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