Masonic Square and Compasses

When you hear the word “Masonic Square and Compass”, what comes to mind? Do you just hear the symbols at the geometric level or you hear something relating to shapes and Objects?

Well, Square and Compass can relate to different things and symbols with meanings. Symbols depict a mark, a sign that is understood to represent an idea. Square and Compass in this context reflect the Universal logo of Freemason. 

Read further to glean more about this.

Learn more: The Meaning Of Masonic Symbols

The Square

What Masonic Square And Compass Mean

The Square is a builder’s Square with two flat-edged metal or wooden arms joined at a right angle which enables the drawing of a perfect square by a stonemason, carved in stones and corners.

The right angle is often considered important to buildings, to make sure that stones and bricks are square, meeting and joining each other at proper points.

However, in Freemasonry, it is a symbol of the ability to utilize teachings of conscience and morality to test or try the rightness of actions in tandem with the Golden rule which it anchors.

The Compass

The Compass
The Compass

Compasses consist of equal pair of legs fixed together at their apex by an adjustable hinge. However, to Masons, it depicts an intention or purposefulness in drawing a boundary or line around passions and keeping oneself within regions of constraints and moderation, which is considered as the foundation of wisdom.

Details you never knew about Freemasonry’s Universal logo

  • The Square and Compass are joined together and each of the legs of the compass points in opposite directions.
  • The Square represents morality while the compass represents boundaries.
  • In the operative stonemason era, the 90-degree angle of the square was a necessary tool used to test the accuracy of the sides of the stone to ascertain that the stone’s angles matched the square’s “true” right angle.
  • God and the Squares, with 5 or 7 right or perfect Masons make up a lodge.
  • The Square and compass symbols do not exactly look the same in different cultural settings and historical representations. There are often allowances for slight modifications while retaining the pure intent of the square and compass logo to all freemasons.
  • However, irrespective of the differences or peculiarities that exist, one thing common to all freemasons is the unity they exude and uniformity in protocols carried out in the fraternity.  
  • Both the square and the compass are architectural tools used in Masonic rituals as rigid emblems to teach symbolic lessons and groom the younger members of the fraternity.
  • Historically, both the square and compasses are architect’s tools to create true and perfect lines and angles. 
  • Operative stonemasons used them as the tools of their trade with a career begun as entered apprentice under the supervision of a Master mason. 
  • After several years, if their work was pleasing to the Master stonemason, the entered apprentice was elevated to the title of a Fellowcraft. 
  • After the passage of more years, if the Fellowcraft’s work was deemed acceptable to the Master, he would then be allowed to work on a Masterpiece.
  • Also, sometimes, some lodges can explain the symbols in the context of conduct and behavioural ethics by linking them to human actions and other observances, to the end that man is bound with his fellow man in unity.
  • For example, when considering the speculative Masonic Symbolism of the Square and Compasses which is an emblematic symbol is used in Masonic ritual, it is often said that “The Square is an emblem of virtue in which man must square his actions by the square of virtue with all mankind”.

Lessons from the Compass however is said to exemplify man’s wisdom of conduct while amplifying the strength to circumscribe desires and keep passions within due bounds”.

With reverence to God, the Creator…

  • The central point which is said to anchor the Masonic fraternity when these Masonic tools are placed together is God (the Creator) (just as King Solomon built God’s Temple, first… and then built his house around it), peace and harmony is the result. 
  • The Information below may be found in Mackey’s Revised Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, Volume 2, Page 963, 1929.

Usage of the Masonic Square and Compass

Masonic Symbol
Masonic Symbol

Masonic Squares and Compass teaches lessons which revolve around morality, truthfulness and honesty in different contexts. Some of the examples are:

  • It is one of the 3 Great Lights (the Square, the Compass and the Holy Book).
  • It is the working tool of a Fellowcraft.
  • It is the official emblem of the Master of the lodge.
  • Its incorporation into everyday usage cannot be overlooked. Sayings have been coined which factors in the word “square” in our everyday interaction. Some of which are:
  • …Squaring off
  • …getting a square deal
  • …on the square…

Usage with additional symbols

It is used with additional symbols in the following instances

  • The Order of Free Gardens
  • The arms of the former Allan Glen’s School
  • Mormonism
  • The Junior Order of United American Mechanics
  • The Independent United Order of Mechanics
  • The Royal Black Institution
  • Carpenters Company of the City and County of Philadelphia
  • The Incorporation of Wrights and Masons
  • In the Order of the Free Gardens, a pruning knife is added within the square and the compass. 
  • Within the Square and the compass, an arm-and-hammer is added for the Junior Order of United American Mechanics, while the Royal Black Institution and The Independent Order of Mechanics use the symbol unchanged to convey what they represent.
  • With three sets of compasses in its arm, and a square, the Carpenters Company of the City and County of Philadelphia uses its combination as its functional logo. Also, Mormonism uses separate markings of the Square and Compass as markings in its temple garments.


Masonic Symbols Variations
  • In France, one leg is longer than the other due to the nature of its original construction (see Euclid’s 47th Proposition).
  • The American Freemason square has equal length “legs”, but with increments of inches, as if to measure length and breadth.
  •  An Antique Square: In 1830, an architect who was rebuilding an ancient bridge called Baal Bridge near Limerick, Ireland removed the foundation stone of the bridge and found a much eaten away old brass square. On the surfaces of its 2 legs, was the following inscription:

 “I will strive to live – with love and care – upon the level – by the square.” 

It was dated 1517. 

N: B

It is important to note that the specific date with which the Masonic square became an official Masonic symbol remains unknown. It was simply identified as one of the important tools used by a functional mason in his craft back in the days.

Usage In Speech

  • Excerpt from a speech delivered by Brother Herbert A. Giles, Worshipful Master of Ionic Lodge No. 1781, at Amoy, entitled “Freemasonry in China”
  • “From time immemorial, we find the Square and Compasses used by Chinese writers to symbolize precisely the same phases of moral conduct as in our system of Freemasonry. 
  • The earliest passage known to me (Albert Mackey) which bears upon the subject is to be found in the Book of History, embracing the period reaching from the 24th to the 7th century before Christ. It is there, in an account of a military expedition that we read:

“Ye officers of government, apply the Compasses!”

In another part of the same records, a Magistrate (judge) is spoken of as:

“A man of the level, or the level man.”

  • 481 B.C.: Confucius, in his public discourses provides us with several Masonic allusions of a more or less definite character. The Master tells us that only at 75 years of age could he venture to follow the inclinations of his heart, without fear of transgressing the limits of the Square.”
  •  Circa 281 B.C.: In the works of Mencius, a follower of Confucius, is a fuller and more impressive Masonic phraseology: 
  • Book vi: “The Master mason in teaching his apprentices, makes use of the Square and the Compasses. Ye who is engaged in the pursuit of wisdom must also make use of the Square and the Compasses.”
  •  300-400 Years Before Christ: In the Great Learning, Chapter 10, believed to have been written circa 300-400 B.C., we read that a man should abstain from doing unto others what he would not they should do unto him; “this,” adds the writer, “is called the principle of acting on the Square.”

Masonic Symbols

  • It is seen on Masonic Regalia in the lodge, and Master Masons proudly wear it on Masonic clothing such as Masonic shirts, jackets and caps.
  •  Masonic rings display the Square and Compasses in a vast array of metals and jewels as well as the lapel pins, coming in various blends of Silver and Gold. 
  • The Square and Compass is the most seen Masonic Symbol among the array of Jewellery
  • You will also find the Square and Compasses on such items as Masonic hats, Masonic tie clips, Masonic lapel pins and even Masonic brass door knockers.
  •  There are more vehicles with Masonic auto emblems…comprised mostly of this Masonic logo.

Square and Compass represents an iconic idea, diversified in meanings. Its teachings are ground-breaking, I hope you can form a mental imagery of Masonic Square and Compass amongst the numerous options it chooses to present.

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