Masonic Symbols Decoded

The Freemasons' square-and-compasses symbol adorns a wall in Washington, D.C.'s Masonic House of the Temple--the scene of strange rituals in Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown's new book, The Lost Symbol (exterior picture and facts about the Masonic temple).

The square-and-compasses symbol has its roots, as modern Freemasonry may have, in the craft of stonemasonry. Most of the trade's tools are represented somewhere in the symbols of the Freemasons, the world's largest international secret society, founded in 17th-or-18th century Britain.

Masonic scholars explain that the square reminds Masons to ensure that their actions conform to a "square of virtue," while the compasses symbolize self-control over their passions.

The symbol-rich House of the Temple, designed by Jefferson Memorial architect John Russell Pope, is one of two national headquarters for the United States' 550,000 Scottish Rite Masons. A decidedly non-secretive attraction, the Masonic temple hosts regular children's concerts, public tours, and the Burl Ives Collection—artifacts of the 20th-century singer, actor, and narrator of the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer TV special.

The Great Seal of the United States' all-seeing "Eye of Providence"—like the pyramid, a symbol adopted by Freemasons—stares from the back of the U.S. dollar bill. To some of the society's detractors, the symbol is proof of a powerful Masonic conspiracy with its roots in the founding of the United States.

But Masonic scholar Jay Kinney, author of The Masonic Myth, stresses that Freemasons weren't the first to use the eye. And it was a non-Mason, artist Pierre Du Simitiere, who introduced the eye to the seal.

On the seal, the eye represents divine guidance of the U.S. ship of state, or, as Secretary of the U.S. Congress Charles Thompson put it in 1782, it alludes "to the many signal interpositions of providence in favour of the American cause."

There was one known Mason on the seal-designing committee, Benjamin Franklin. His proposed design was eyeless--and rejected.

The Masonic square-and-compasses symbol—in its familiar, though enigmatic, "G" iteration—occupies a prominent place on a Washington, D.C., building.

On this Masonic symbol, the letter "G" has been said stand for both geometry—central to stonemason knowledge—and for God, who Masons say should be central to the life of a Mason, no matter what his religion.

In an 1860s Masonic print, U.S. Founding Father and Freemason George Washington is surrounded by portraits of Masons Andrew Jackson and the Marquis de Lafayette, as well as biblical scenes and Freemason symbols.

Washington wears the ritual Masonic apron, modeled on those of stonemasons. To Freemasons, the apron symbolizes innocence and sacrifice. The trowel in his right hand, another traditional masonry tool, symbolizes the spreading of brotherly love.

Washington himself has become something of an symbol to the brothers of his order, said Mark Tabbert, director of collections at the George Washington Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia.

"From the Masonic point of view, he exemplifies the virtues and morality that Masons strive to live up to."

Though Freemasons are said to be accepting of all major religions that worship a single god, Masonic symbols are often biblical--as is the case with Jacob's ladder, pictured in a detail of an 1861 Freemason membership certificate.

In the Bible patriarch Jacob dreams that his ladder allows angels to ascend and descend from heaven. To Freemasons, the ladder's seven rungs represent faith, hope, charity, justice, prudence, temperance, and fortitude.

Holding up the sky above Jacob are the three symbolic Great Pillars of every Masonic lodge--columns representing wisdom, strength, and beauty.

A news from National , 15 Sept 2009



Post a Comment