The Square & Compasses: Symbol or Emblem


The Square & Compasses Symbol or Emblem
DONALD J. VAN KIRK, MPS



When you place the Square and Compasses on your lapel, are you putting on an 
emblem or a symbol? Many of our brethren today have forgotten the symbolism and 
are only reflecting to the outer world the emblem of an organization they belong 
too. To each of us the Square & Compasses symbolizes something that cannot 
always be put into words.

To Washington and the Masons of his day, it meant a Lodge room and brethren 
where they could meet and discuss their daily trials and tribulations without 
fear of treachery, to others it was a post office or a news stand where they 
could get the latest news from home. To many, it was a respite from the turmoil 
of the world which would never be the same after the American Revolution. 

Our World History is replete with stories of how the Square and Compasses have 
saved the lives of brethren either through the Sign of Distress or the 
recognition of the Symbol itself.

Some men have just enjoyed meeting with other men and the fellowship that ensued 
while just sharing a common meal.

To the majority of men it means a way of life. We know the meaning of the inner 
spiritual temple of man and must show that to our uninitiated friends.

We must always chose to serve rather than to be served. We feel we are 
privileged to belong to the Craft and search for the deeper meaning which has 
held it together, some say for thousands of years.

Is the vast organization of Masonry merely ordained to the grown up men of the 
World the symbolic meaning of a few simple builders tools, or to impress upon us 
such elementary virtues as temperance and justice? The children of every school 
are taught these. Or just to enforce such simple principles or morals such as 
brotherly love, which every church and religion teaches; or of truth, which 
every infant learns upon his mother's knee. The Craft whose work we are taught 
to honour with the name of a "science" a royal art," has surely some larger end 
in view than merely inculcating the practice of social virtues common to all the 
world and by no means the monopoly of Freemasons. Of Course, but how do we 
communicate it? By living the ritual that we know so well. We all came seeking 
spiritual rebirth. The first degree is the comprehensive portrayal of that 
entrance of all men into, first, physical life, and second, spiritual life; or 
more eminently the degree of self discipline and purification. For he who is not 
pure in body and mind and who is enslaved by passions and desires of this world, 
is by the very fact of his uncleanliness, prevented from passing on.

After purification comes contemplation and enlightenment, which are the special 
subjects of the second degree. Here he is taught to persist with fortitude and 
with prudence, to develop the highest within him with "Fervency and Zeal ' " The 
third degree symbolically passes him through a great and striking change: A re-
birth a regeneration of his whole nature. He has been "sown a corruptible body"; 
and in virtue of self-discipline and self-development he has undergone, there 
has been raised in him "an incorruptible body" and death has been swallowed up 
in the victory, he has attained over himself. How can you feel this meaning of 
the Craft? By learning the meaning behind the words of the rituals. Take part, 
live the part, get taken up into the very nature of it and then you will begin 
to feel the light.

No one can communicate the deeper things in Masonry to another. Every man must 
discover and learn them for himself, although a friend or brother may be able to 
conduct him on the right path of understanding.

Only when we begin to feel the symbolism of Masonry can we truly say "I wear the 
symbol and not the emblem of our Craft."