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Research by: Bro. B.J. Torres, PAGS (147)


(Lecture given in Laong Laan Lodge No. 185, Aug 5, 1990)


Posted on May 2006, Issue No. 3 of RIVER DELTA


     There are two common views of Freemasonry. The first unfortunately, views Freemasonry only as a club, a social organization of mutually selected men whose sole object is the enjoyment of such fellowship, and to whom the ritual and secrecy of initiation rites afford only passing interest and casual entertainment of the moment. The second views Freemasonry as a cultural school, a school of practical ethics, an organization for the cultivation of social morals, with a course of study as  progressive as the needs of civilization, and as logically consistent as the events through which society passes from goal to goal in its journey toward a World Brotherhood.


     As we have learned from the ceremonies of the three Degrees, the symbolism of the Ritual is that the candidate, as an individual, is building the temple of his own character. Yet, it has a broader application. The individual Mason, when he has attained that state of perfection when he can be properly termed a "Perfect Ashlar," represent the prepared stone ready to be fitted into its place in that greater temple of Brotherhood which Masonry engaged in erecting.


     Man's nature, as it has always been said, is so constituted that his happiness consists in perpetual progress. The idea of building is but one way of expressing the sublime that man was created for eternal progress, which was one of the earliest teachings of Freemasonry, and was illustrated in its most ancient rites.


     The individual Mason, as has been said, is engaged in the building of his own character, and the knowledge which he learned through the degree works may be considered as the foundation of that building. The super-structure which he is to build upon that foundation must be raised, however, by his own efforts. His labor, therefore, is not finished upon acquiring the right to be called a "Master Mason." On the contrary, it has just begun.


     For the erection of his individual edifice, the Mason is given various working tools which he must know how to use with care. The gauge, the gavel, plumb, level and square are given him, each with significant meaning. The working tools of an Entered Apprentice Mason are to be used in subduing his human nature and in turning himself into a moral man. This being accomplished, he is then ready to apply to his work the plumb, level and square. When the plumb has shown that he is upright, a man of integrity; when the level has proved that he has developed recognition of equality and that he is faithful, a man of fidelity; and when the square has also proven by tests the showing of the plumb and the level are straight and true, and they square with each other, then only thus that the Fellowcraft would know himself fit for the service.


     And it is only when fit for service, after having passed the test of the square, that he is sure that he has made that suitable proficiency which entitles him to use the trowel the instrument used for rendering service - the only tool for use upon others.


     The square is one of the working tools of a Fellowcraft; but in the study of the square we find that it is always nearly linked into the compasses. The square is a right angle and belongs to Geometry, or earth measurements. The compasses describes the circles and deals with spherical trigonometry, the science of spheres and heavens. The square, therefore, is a symbol of what concerns the earth and body; the compasses that of heaven and soul. In other words, the square symbolizes material things while the compasses that of spiritual things. These ideas are significantly illustrated by the arrangement of these working tools in the different degrees.


     The Entered Apprentice Mason symbolizes man as influenced by material things only - thus - the points of the compasses are below or beneath the square. The Fellowcraft Mason has gained partial control over his earthly and material nature - thus - one point is above, the other point below. As the heavens are higher that the earth, so should the individual Mason rise above the material and dominate his thoughts and actions. Thus - in the Third Degree the Master Mason symbolizes the Mason who has rule, control and empire over his appetites and passions - both points of the compasses are dominant above the square. This idea is very well expressed in the following quotations:


     "As an Apprentice a man is suymbolically in a crude and natural state, his divine life covered and ruled by his earthly nature. As a Fellowcraft he has made one step toward liberty and life, and the nobler elements in him are struggling to rise above and control his lower, lesser nature. In the Sublime Degree the Master Mason, far more sublime than we yet realize - by human love, by discipline of tragedy, and still more by divine assistance - the divine in him has subjugated the earthly, and he stands forth strong, free and fearless, ready to raise stone upon stone until naught is wanting."


     The symbolism of the three degrees as a whole can be said to allude to the life of man which is divided into three periods; Youth, Manhood and Old Age. In other words, the Lodge is a symbol of the world and the ritual is the drama of the life of man.

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