The Square and Compass: Masonic Tools, How Many Know How to Use Them?
By Fahim A. Knight-EL
The Square and Compass, these are truly fascination tools, (conventional, mystical and enigmatic) perhaps as symbols they are often associated and identifiable with the Speculative Masonic Sciences which is the philosophical framework of Freemasonry. The Masonic Historian Allen E. Roberts gives us an account of a manufacturing company that applied for a corporate patent with the U.S. Patent office and was denied the use of the Square and Compass, as its corporate logo. This legal precedence would forever assign the interlaced Square and Compass as a symbol belonging to Freemasonry, at least within the United States. But since that time, the symbol has almost become universally accepted as a Masonic emblem. .” (Reference: Allen E. Roberts; “The Craft and its Symbols: Opening the Door to Masonic Symbolism”).
This is what Roberts wrote in his book titled, "The Craft and its Symbol: Opening the Door to Masonic Symbolism" stated: "One of these symbols, with which you are familiar, is the Square and Compasses—the "symbol of Freemasonry." This has been recognized and accepted as the Masonic emblem from of the 18th Century at least. The United States Patent Office took note of this in 1873. It told a flour manufacturer, and the world. ‘This device, so commonly worn and employed by Masons, has an established mystic significance, universally recognized as existing, whether comprehended by all or not, is not material to this issue. In view of the magnitude of the Masonic organization, it is impossible to divest its symbols, or at least this particular symbol—perhaps the best known of all—of its ordinary significance, wherever displayed." The manufacturer was denied the use of the Square and Compasses as a trade-mark.” (Reference: Allen E. Roberts; “The Craft and its Symbols: Opening the Door to Masonic Symbolism” pg. 12).
This writer has always wondered, why would the Freemasons choose the Square and Compass as their primary organizational symbols? What is it about this set of interlaced symbols that sets it apart as being the most fitting which to characterize Speculative Craft Masonry? (Reference: W.L. Wilmshurst; “The Meaning of Masonry”).
The Masons teach that the Square is emblematic of morality. Wikipedia defines morality as: "a code of conduct or belief which is held to be authoritative in matters of right and wrong. Morals are arbitrarily created and subjectively defined by society, philosophy, religion, and/or individual conscience."
Masonry is defined by most Masonic scholars as a system of morality veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols. How does an Operative Masonic tool become associated with morality? Morality is steeped in the question of right and wrong, in which behavioral scientist and philosophers have debated and written volumes of intellectual treatise on the concept of morality. Thus, this writing is not meant to assess or further analyze the concept of morality beyond the superficial of accepting it with in the scope of the Masonic worldview.
The Masons teach that the Square and Compass represents morality, friendship and brotherly love which is the basis of their philanthropic mission and organizational motivation; this is also carried out in the Masonic charge of Brotherly love, Relief and Truth. American Freemasonry has what is considered immovable jewels—the Square which is a jewel worn by the Worshipful Master in the East, it is he who is supposed to be a moral standard bearer for the entire Masonic Lodge and he represents the Light of the lodge, which is styled as Wisdom; the Level is a jewel worn by the Senior Warden in the West and he is paradoxical to the fullness of the light that emanates from the Worshipful Master in East, but is universal styled as strength—the setting Sun in the West complimenting and completing the rise and fall of the day; the Junior Warden sits in the South (also representative of the Sun crossing the meridian) and is styled as beauty, which is associated with Equality and is epitomized best by the Plumbline—denoting uprightness. But all of this has an even deeper astrological and celestial interpretation which is based in the science of the winter solstice and the summer solstice. (Reference: John G. Jackson; “Man, God and Civilization).
A good number of People who have no idea or understanding of what Freemasonry is or isn’t, but if the majority is shown the Square and Compass more often than not, many will immediately associate the symbols as being Masonic symbols. This is the power and the subliminal association that mental conditioning has in culture and societal predisposition that is rooted in the human subconscious to formulate symbols as a representation and connection to something tangible and in some cases intangible. (Reference: Robert Lomas; “Freemasonry and the Birth of Modern Science”).
Miranda Bruce-Mitford who authored a book titled, "The Illustrated Books of Signs and Symbols" stated: SIGNS OR SYMBOLS? “A sign is an object or idea that represents or points to something else in a fairly straightforward way. An advertisement, for example, reminds us of the product it is promoting; a' road sign indicates conditions ahead; and a gesture expresses a mood. As the modern world challenges our sense of identity, we often adopt signs to define ourselves, for example by donning badges or brand-name clothing. A symbol is clearly linked in function to a sign, and the two words are often used interchangeably, but symbol generally has a deeper meaning. A symbol is something that through its nature or appearance reflects or represents another thing more profound than itself. A fire, for instance, may symbolize the flames of the sun, which itself has qualities of warmth, light, and creative power, and is thus equated with life force and masculine creative strength. The creator gods of mythology, who possess these very qualities, are usually linked to the sun. On a small scale, objects such as the candle or lamp can be also related to the imagery of the sun. A symbolic image is thus linked to many interpretations.” (Reference: Miranda Bruce-Mitford; "The Illustrated Books of Signs and Symbols" pg. 6).
However, other than Freemasons none have such an affinity and appreciation for these working tools (24 inch gauge, plumbline, common gavel, trowel, square, compass, setting maul, spade, etc., other than craftsmen and architects or perhaps those who are part of the building trades perhaps would be able to appreciate the value of these Operative tools. It is taught in the majority of the Masonic lodges that these tools are best explained in the ritual work as mere emblematic symbols giving to higher lessons in human conduct—used and taught to make good men better. For example, if every Mason properly internalized the moral principles that is uttered throughout their Masonic traveling this will get them closer to human exemplary by always working to, "square their actions by the square of virtue" and learn to "circumscribe their desires and keep their passions within due bounds toward all mankind.” (Reference: Malcolm Duncan: Duncan’s Ritual of Freemasonry”).
This is the struggle that each newly made Mason is confronted with and in essence, it is the struggle that all of humanity is faced with—the struggle to overcome our human defects and our imperfections in order to work towards mastering our internal and external flaws. Moreover, just as the square is used to perfect the erecting of a physical structure—man has to strive for the perfection that is seen in the Great Architect of the Universe (the Supreme Being) and he is mandated to erect his life on moral and ethical principles, which gives him the best opportunity to serve himself and humanity. (Reference: Rollin C. Blackmer: “The Lodge and the Craft”).
The Masonic scholar Robert Lomas in his book entitled, “Turning the Hiram Key: Rituals of Freemasonry Revealed” Stated: “'Allow me, once more, to point out the emplacement of the Compasses and Square. When you were but an Apprentice both points were concealed from your sight. Then as a Fellow of our Craft, one point was revealed, showing you had further to travel before you could achieve the full understanding that Masonry can offer. Now you are about to enter the sublime condition of a Master Mason, the full scope of the compasses are revealed to you, in order that your spirit may encompass the mystery of the centre.” (Reference: Robert Lomas; “Turning the Hiram Key: Rituals of Freemasonry Revealed” pg. 142).
If he follows and master these principles he will come to understand what the ancient people of Kemet (Egypt), China, Persia, Babylon, Suma, etc., understood which is the evolution of man transitioning and evolving into becoming god. Western Freemasonry got its official start in Europe in 1717, but the Egyptian Mystery Schools predated Western Freemasonry by some thousands of years in which European Masonry—Greece, England, Ireland, France, Scotland, etc., owe a debt of gratitude to their Nubian Sages and Masters of Kemet (Egypt). But at onetime in Europe to attain the Entered Apprentice degree it would require the adept to have studied for three (3) years, the Fellowcraft degree would require five (5) years and the Master Mason degree would require a study process of seven (7) years.
There you have if the 3-5-7 and those who study numerology perhaps could delve deeper into the science of these numbers. The three (3) symbolizes the stations of the Worshipful Master, Senior Warden and Junior Warden; the five (5) symbolizes the five schools of architect—Tuscan (Hearing), Doric (Seeing), Ionic (Feeling), Corinthian (Smelling) and Composite (Tasting); the Seven (7) symbolizes the Seven Liberal Arts—Grammar, Rhetoric, Logic, Arithmetic, Geometry, Music and Astronomy.
This writer can not imagine what the timeframes of the adepts of the Egyptian Mystery Schools may have been in order to be considered qualified and met suitable proficiency standards to be passed on to the next study level. This perhaps was a much better system of Masonic learning (requiring more time spent studying under the Masters and internalizing the mysteries) for the adept (candidate) attaining suitable proficiency and then moving on to his next level of assignment. (Reference: Manly P. Hall; “The Secret Teachings of All Ages”).
We all have an internal numerical and alphabetical code, but that is truly another subject for another time. Freemasonry has many signs and symbols, but there is none that is more identifiable with Freemasonry than the Square and Compass, it embodies an extensive and massive liturgy which speaks to the esoteric, occult, Gnostic, etc., ideas that encompasses Masonry as a philosophical school of thought. In a book titled, "Symbolism of Freemasonry" stated, " The square and compasses have no intrinsic power. They are tools invented by human beings to help them exercise the power they know they possess to shape reality. Symbolism makes the meaning of these tools clearer by depicting them as images of the mind that conceived and created them. The square and compasses are symbolic to the extent that they represent in a material form the shape and skill of the human soul."
Thus, each Masonic degree from the first degree to the 32nd and I am even assuming that honorary 33rd degree which is conferred by the United Supreme Council also has a set of working tools associated with this Masonic body. But its in the first three degrees—Blue Lodge Masonry, in particular after neophyte has earned the Sublime Degree of Master Mason that the working tools are inculcated and this is where the foundation of Freemasonry is truly embedded in the psyche of the neophyte as he is being brought from darkness to light.
Robert Lomas in “Turning the Hiram Key: Rituals of Freemasonry Revealed” further stated: “The Square represents the independence of the brain’s autonomous systems of arousal and quiescence. The compass symbolizes a tool to measure, control; and understand their responses. Together the square and compasses combine to form the lozenge shaped handle for the key. It is linked by a square-section shaft to the symbol of the centre, the shape which engages with and unlocks the Glory there. It is a circle bounded by two pillars and represents the balance between light and darkness, good and bad, arousal and qui¬escence, the centre and the periphery. At the middle of the circle is the point from which you can no longer err.” (Reference: Robert Lomas; “Turning the Hiram Key: Rituals of Freemasonry Revealed” pg. 374-375).
The Freemason will eventually learn that each symbolic Operative Masonic tool has an equal philosophical and spiritual representation that is steeped in the esoteric and possess a lot of ancient wisdom that will take him on a knowledge search and a traveling journey that is guaranteed for a life time. If he was serious about his initiation and possessed a willingness to always be in search of more Light in Masonry. This statement alone does not require intellectual stagnation and it definitely lends itself to being beyond the intellectual dormant status of static motion. Many after being raised from a dead level to a living perpendicular on the Square—90 degrees upright (plumb, level and square which typifies the Moral Man), and is giving all the rights and privileges thereunto appertaining to meeting all the Masonic requirements, which to be granted the third degree and highest degree in Masonry affectionately referred to as the Master Mason degree. (Reference: Born In Blood: The Lost Secrets of Freemasonry”).
They naively believe that they have acquired all there is to know and learn about Masonry, and cease to study further, which ultimately deprives them of the spiritual and philosophical benefits that undergirds Speculative Masonry—also in doing this they will never come in contact with so many of the ancient texts, which will give him more pieces to the Masonic riddle.
These ancient lessons are dramatized by rituals and perhaps are more accurately conveyed in ancient text such as "The Egyptian Book of the Dead (properly titled: "The Book of Coming Forth by Day: The Ethics of the Declarations of Innocence "). They lose sight of the many sublime lessons that is shrouded in the mystical teachings and the first thing a newly raised Masonic brother desires to do, is show off his Square and Compass emblems on his persons or apply the symbol to the back of his vehicle, as though this makes him a Mason (he immediately forgot that he was first made a Mason in his heart which was to teach him that the value of these pristine lessons are to be used internally to foster self-improvement). (Reference: Edmond Ronayne: “Master's Carpet or Masonry and Baal-Worship Identical”)
His Masonic knowledge is limited and he has forgotten that on the Entered Apprentice level, that he was giving a new name which was Caution (he did not understand that he was giving this name in the Northeast corner of the lodge symbolizing a place of darkness and un-enlightenment). His guide directed him during the circumambulations, spoke and answered for him (the candidate was hoodwink and cable-towed); he was instructed to trust in God and his guide and no harm would come to him. This is a vulnerable position, but the moral lessons will one day go far beyond his vulnerability on that day when he was initiated. (Reference: Albert Pike: "Morals and Dogma").
The newly made Master Mason should be required to ware this title of Caution and remain in silence (when questioned; his response should be “I crave”) because he is without the light (knowledge) to explain or defend the ancient rites, rituals, sacraments, history, signs and symbols, etc., that he swore to uphold, which embodies this vast school of thought that is embedded in the philosophical sciences of all the ancient texts.
The Masonic working tools are rooted in physical building construction tools and instruments, which Speculative Masonry borrowed from Operative Masonry. The ancient builders were magnificent craftsmen and the testimony of their workmanship can be seen in the architecture edifices of both ancient Kemet (Egypt) and Ancient Greece. But unlike Operative Masons of old, Speculative Masonic thinkers understood the duality of the natural order of things (spiritual and physical). They were astute enough to know and understand that the physical world always has a direct equal and opposite counterpart that is discernible in the spiritual realm. (Reference: Albert Churhward; “Signs and Symbols of Primordial Man”).
This writer in 1997, refurbished his home and added 1,500 hundred square feet of new construction to a 950 square feet existing structure, which was part of the renovation process. He had never built anything to this magnitude before and was very naive about the construction process, as well as, serving as his own General Contractor. He later admitted that perhaps he was more ego driven about this project rather than exercising rational thinking because the complexity of the task immediately manifest itself in his lack of building experience, which often slowed the project down. However, it was his job and responsibility to assemble the team of subcontractors and organize the various aspects of the construction phases, as well as pull the various work permits from the
The writer hired an old carpenter named Mr. Willie Robinson who had over fifty years of building and construction experience mainly in carpentry. He understood the science of rough carpentry and finish carpentry and all the other building trades. I relied heavily on Mr. Robinson for his expertise throughout this project, he was really the real manager and I was his protégé. He kept his carpenter square very close to him—which was an L-shaped set square that is used for plotting right angles during the construction process. Sometimes referred to as a builder’s square, the carpenter’s square is a flat square that is often made with steel or aluminum, and is relatively lightweight. Carpenter’s squares are often employed in the construction of walls, in the installation of roofing, and with a number of furniture construction projects."
"The carpenter’s square of today usually measures twenty-four inches by sixteen inches, which is the largest dimensions ever associated with the tool. Typical rafter square and roofing square models in the 19th century tended to measure eighteen inches by twelve inches. Smaller squares are also available, and may be ideal for smaller jobs."
The square that my carpenter Mr. Robinson used, it was revered by him and he lived by (there was no other tool that he depended so heavily on during the various construction stages) its mathematical accuracy, it even became intriguing to me, as a novelist and layperson working beside Mr. Robinson for ten months. This writer tried to learn and study as much as this writer could about this most valuable working tool. I must say, it was not an easy tool which to effectively master. But I also must admit even as a student, when it came to mathematics, I was never the sharpest knife in the draw.
This writer became so intrigued with the building trades that he enrolled into Durham Technical Community College and took three carpentry and building courses, which to learn a little more about the square and other Operative tools. This of course, helped me to better understand the principles of Speculative Freemasonry by studying its Operative Masonic origin. I was able to visualize the physical principles by engaging in Operative Masonry and simultaneously was able to correlate its Speculative counterpart with a better understanding and with more intellectual accuracy. Reference: Martin Wagner: “Freemasonry Interpreted”).
Mr. Robinson would constantly yell out to make sure that whatever we were configuring that it met the mathematical test of being plumb, level, and square—these principles are the foundation of building and to deviate from these building principles of horizontals, perpendiculars and right angles can be chancy; thus you run the risk of erecting a structure on defected mathematical principles. (Reference: John Michael Greer; “The Encyclopedia of Secret Societies”).
There in the middle of the Masonic Square and Compass is another powerful symbol, which is the letter "G" which denotes that these working tools are based in the science of Geometry, which is one of the Masonic Seven Liberal Arts—Geometry treats of the powers and proportions of magnitudes in general, where length, breadth and thickness are considered, from a point to a line, from a line to a superficies and from a superficies to a solid. Building or the use of the carpenter square was rooted in mathematical equations and morality is synonymous with uprightness. The Square and Compass is truly a rule and guide, but in deed Masons used them for a more noble and glorious purpose of building human character. (Reference: E.R. Johnston; "Masonry Defined").
In the "Masonic Quiz Book" we find questions and answers concerning the Ancient Egyptians and the Great Pyramids: "From what people are most of our Masonic symbols taken?" Answer: ".From the Egyptians, who formed the world's oldest civilization."
Question: "What country of ancient times was the cradle of all the mysteries?" Answer: "At one time Egypt was in possession of all the learning and religion that was to be found in the world. It extended to other nations the influence of its sacred rites and esoteric doctrines."
Question: "Who built the Pyramid of Gizah and for what purpose?"Answer:"Khufu, for the study of the stars."
Question: "What are the dimensions of the Great Pyramid of Gizah?" Answer: "Its base is 761 feet 8 inches on each side and it is 485 feet high. It was built of large stones, none less than thirty feet long and five feet square quarried at a great distance, transported hundreds of miles, crossing the river Nile, and raised to their lofty position in the structure by methods unknown to the engineers of today."
Question: "What is Alchemy?" Answer: "A so-called division of chemistry, treating of the art: Question: "By what other name was the science of Alchemy called?"
Answer: "The Hermetic Philosophy, because it is said to have been first taught by Hermes Trismegistus in Egypt."
Question: "Who was Pythagoras?" "One of the most celebrated of the Greek philosophers" "How many years did Pythagoras have to wait for initiation into the hidden mysteries of Egypt?" Answer: "Twenty (20) years."
Question: "What is the forty-seventh (47th) problem of Euclid?" Answer:"In any right angled triangle, the square which is described upon the side subtending the right angle, is equal to squares described upon the sides which contain the right angle."
Question: "To whom were the Greeks indebted for their inspiration in architecture?" Answer: "From the great builders in Egypt.
Fahim A. Knight-EL Chief Researcher for KEEPING IT REAL THINK TANK located in Durham, NC; our mission is to inform African Americans and all people of good will of the pending dangers that lie ahead; as well as decode the symbolisms and reinterpret the hidden meanings behind those who operate as invisible forces, but covertly rules the world. We are of the belief that an enlighten world will be better prepared to throw off the shackles of ignorance and not be willing participants for the slaughter. Our MOTTO is speaking truth to power. Fahim A. Knight can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
STAY AWAKE UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN,
Fahim A. Knight-EL