We meet upon the Level, and part upon the Square…
To say that you are “square” with another is a term used commonly among men and Masons both. In short, it means that we are in agreement with one another; that there is no animosity between us; or that we are on an equal footing with one another. Masonically speaking, to be square is to be level; is to be plumb and upright; so on and so on. This is true because of the way in which the builder’s tools measure time and space. If we are square, then that is to say that all is right… all is “o.k.” within our universe.
However, just as the builder’s tools show age and need to be re-sharpened and at times re-calibrated, the same holds true for the square, and all that it contains. If you were square yesterday, or last year… this does not automatically assure that you are still square today! Brother, when was the last time that you “trued” your square?
As the point within the circle indicates YOU as a Brother Mason, this also indicates that by utilizing yourself and the knowledge which you possess, you are able to true yourself and the square which rules your life and all of your activities. To true your own square is one of the most important and yet all too often overlooked aspects of a Masonic life. Why is this so, and from where does this neglect originate?
At the conclusion of the 3rd degree, most Masons are presented with their Bible (or other Volume of Sacred Law), are given a ring or other Masonic gifts, and are sent out into the world, woefully unprepared for what lay ahead. It is within the teaching and lectures of that 3rd degree that aids and abets this lack of knowledge.
On a personal note, I am not a fan of the finality of thought that is very often included in the Master Mason degree. After learning whatever secrets are held therein, I have often heard phrases such as: “you are now a Master Mason, and there can be no greater achievement in your life”; “It matters not if and when you set foot back inside of a Lodge, for you will be a Master Mason until your death”; to the toe curling statement of “you will never gain more Light my Brother, than what you have been given this night, and from now on, you will ALWAYS be Square and on the Level with your Brethren”.
My thoughts regarding much of what happens during the 3rd degree- Baloney!
Unless a Mason constantly works at his Craft, then he will NOT always be Square with the world; with himself; or with anything! Furthermore, just because you have been presented with and then Raised in the vaunted 3rd degree, does not make you any more of a Mason than when you were first Initiated as an Entered Apprentice… voting and Apron wearing styles be damned. Far too many get caught up in this notion of being able to wear a Masonic ring, vote in elections, and hold office in their Lodges. Mind you, all of these are good things- they are things that make the Fraternity viable. But, I ask you- if a man has taken all of this… the degree work… the catechism… the “everything” as a SUBSTITUTE for truly learning and living out the Work, then how long will it be before his working tools lose their edge.
My friends, our working tools, the speculative tools which govern our lives, need constant use and adjustment just as the tools of the operative craftsman require maintenance. As proof of the importance of the EA degree, one of its lectures describes a certain “point within a circle”, and the importance of this always being present in any well governed Lodge. And then … nothing more is said of the ALL-IMPORTAINT POINT WITHIN A CIRCLE! This is a travesty that only wreaks further and worse travesty upon our Craft. The point(s)… is the individual Brethren. But, why is this important?
We must build as the GAOTU intended- straight, level, square, and true… always true.
I offer this condensed examination of how we may use that point to true the square. I might add, that this is as important as anything that you will ever be taught as a Mason, perhaps it the MOST important. From MasonicWorld.com: “Draw the circle of whatever size you will; place a dot on the circumference where you will, it makes no difference. So be it. So be it the lines from the dot meet the horizontal line crossing the circle through its center and they will form a right angle. This was the Operative Mason’s secret – knowing how “to try his square.” It was by this means that he tested the working tools of the Fellows of the Craft; he did so often enough, and it was impossible either for their tools or their work “to materially err.” From this, also, comes the ritual used in the lodges of our English brethren, where they “open on the center.” Alas, we have dropped the quaint old words they use, and American Lodges know the “center” only as the point within a circle. The original line across the center has been shifted to the side and became the “two perpendicular parallel lines” of Egypt and India and our admonitions are no longer what they must have once been; . . . “while a mason circumscribes his “square” within these points, it is impossible that “it” should materially err.”[i]”
You see- the square, operative or not, needs constant attention and activity, or it will NOT remain true. Through the constant movement and harsh environment of an operative jobsite, the square is dropped, jostled, and knocked out of shape. Methods, such as the one described in the preceding paragraph, were and are used by individual workmen to always keep their squares and tools true. The same holds true in our speculative pursuits. Things happen, feelings get bumped around, our prerogatives change… we need recalibration from time to time, and the effectiveness of our efforts determines our end result.
The Consequences of Bending Morality To Suit Ourselves and Our Circumstances
Confucius, who taught a variety of truths and virtues, lived 551-479 BC. Confucius, commonly K’ung Futse “Master K’ung”, or commonly as Chungni, lived in a time of tribal rule in the era of the Qin dynasty, in China. Confucius taught in Central Harmony that true morality was defined as a man conforming “himself to his life circumstances”, and not wanting to fall above or beneath them at any time. I find a great many difficulties in this assessment, as it lends an air of malleability to a notion which is fairly rigid[ii].
If we Masonically consider that the square governs morality, then there is indeed little room for error, and this intent on being without error is the whole point. A thought process that is reminiscent of “when in Rome” does not really adhere to the square or the rigidity and repetition that is presented in the square and certainly does not provide for any real moral rectitude. In fact, such a notion as that presented by Confucius seems to be a ready recipe for disaster!
It then follows that if we choose to operate without a true directive or square, our actions will necessarily be faulty. These effects are the result of our tools, the tools that we have been given to use. So, if we and/or our Brethren have not, and do not constantly TRUE our squares, then how will ANY of us know that any or all of us is at fault? The short answer is that WE won’t, but that others, observers of our actions… they most certainly will. You ask, how will they tell?
Builders Do Leave A Legacy
In operative times, the proof would be in the building constructed. I might suppose that, if a building were to be raised by a group of workmen using ineffective tools, then the roof tiles or parapets of that building would perhaps lean precariously or most likely simply fall to the ground. Perhaps, the entire structure would collapse in a stiff breeze. More likely, would be that the building would survive for a time, though its appearance to all who passed would be of a structure that simply “did not look right”…
Now, if we consider that we are building in a speculative manner, that is to say- that we are building our lives, spiritually and physically, then such a difference to onlookers might not be readily apparent, and this is where the problem compounds itself. As Masons, we influence not only ourselves, but those around and about us. If and when we build and then continue to build with tools that are not truly square, the effects might not be visible in our lives… or even in the lives of those we mentor- at least, not at first.
However, in time, the out of whack teachings and thought processes that we put into the collective WILL cause damage, perhaps those who hear it second or third hand… and their spiritual structure may then show immediate effects. Brethren, your words and actions have very long lasting effects. These speeches given at the conclusion of the 3rd degrees, when everyone is feeling so good about what they have just accomplished, should be given in very carefully measured doses.
- The newly Raised Master Mason is NOT as good or great as he will ever or always be ~ he can and should expected to become BETTER!
- This Master Mason SHOULD endeavor to learn, attend, and contribute to his Lodge ~ if he doesn’t, he and his Lodge will not survive!
- Lastly, and most importantly, the New Mason will absolutely NOT always be on the level with his Brethren, he will NOT always be square, and he should NOT be told that he will be ~ instead, he must always strive for improvement; he must reconcile differences with his Brethren as he travels; if necessary, he must have the knowledge necessary to perform a swift accounting and truing of his tools!
If we neglect to instruct a Brother of these things, we are encouraging and then reinforcing the notion that he should build with tools that could be faulty and out of adjustment. Little or nothing is ever said in Craft Lodges about the physical and spiritual Geometry needed to keep the newly Raised Mason’s tools in keen and workable condition. Moreover, virtually nothing has been said about the express need for the Master of the Lodge himself to constantly true up his tools.
To that end, WE must ALL maintain and keep true our working tools! Brethren, this lack of attention to detail can only lead to glaring mistakes and miss-calculations in the construction of our individual and collective Temples! Our work must include some envisioned picture of an end result, though relies on the maintenance of ourselves and our working tools along the way. This ensures a properly finished structure but will also provide a squared and true pathway, an expertly written textbook, in which future workmen may learn and follow.
That a Mason should rely on the circumference of the compass, is of little use IF he does not remember the center of that circle, from which the compass takes its mark, and from which mark, can prove the square, plumb, level, and all other tools related to the true construction; character or otherwise. It is NOT staying with any circumference which prevents err, but rather; a reliance on the center of any circumference, i.e.; God, the World, the Soul of an individual Mason, which he builds his life and/or building upon, thereby always building plumb and square. This is what prevents err, material or otherwise.
Concerning the Law of the Square
“In the moral world there is only one centre that can bind Humanity together, and that is the Divine Centre. There is only one power that can unite men as brethren, and that is love and reverence for the Great Father of All. How can a Brotherhood exist without a Fatherhood? In the square, the plumb-line is the Fatherhood of God, and level-line is the Brotherhood of man. The sum of the Commandments is, “Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself.” This is the Law of the Square. It is this central truth – this Faith in a great Divine Circle– that binds together everything in the moral world, and gives to it plan, order, and purpose. Without it, all is chaos and darkness. There is no other bond possible, there in one other desirable. We may as soon expect to see a material building stand independent of the Law of Gravitation, as to find a true Brotherhood that acknowledges not the Fatherhood of God. The building that has not its bond of union in the centre of the earth cannot stand. The Brotherhood that has not it union in the heart of God cannot last.[iii]”
Square your tools Brethren, and then check them against the tried and true method of utilizing the Mason’s heart, that certain point within a circle. To proceed in any other manner is to labor as a Cowan does- without cement and without proper skill and direction.[iv]
Build and Travel accordingly.
[i] Point Within A Circle, Short Talk Bulletin, Vol. IX, August, 1931, No.8. at http://www.masonicworld.com/education/files/artoct02/point_within_a_circle.htm [ii] Yutang, Lin; The Wisdom Of Confucius, Random House, 1938. [iii] MacBride, A.; Speculative Masonry, Kingsport: Southern Publishers, Inc., 1924. [iv] Jones, Bernard E.; The Freemasons Guide and Compendium, 1950.
Jon Patrick Sage is a Commercial Construction Superintendent; an Author; Past Master at Jackson Lodge #146 F & AM, in Seymour, IN; a Senior Ritualist under the auspices of the Grand Lodge of Indiana of Free and Accepted Masons; and a member of the Dwight L. Smith Lodge of Research U.D.
Jon is Founder at www.morelightinmasonry.com, and may also be found on that Site’s FaceBook Page at www.facebook.com/mlimasonry . Jon has been Published and Featured in many monthly and quarterly periodicals and has published 2 books.
Jon’s personal blog is at www.jonpatricksage.com and www.facebook.com/jonpatricksage .
Jon has earned the degree of Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Minored in Business Management from Indiana Wesleyan University. Jon is now in Graduate Studies of History, at The Indiana State University, Terre Haute, IN.
Jon is married, and lives with his wife, children, and grand daughter in Seymour, IN.