The point within a circle is a common and essential element of Masonic symbolism. As with much Masonic symbolism, its exact origin and subsequent journey through history is unknown, but in this post, we’re going to examine its importance to Freemasons.
Like the majority of Masonic symbols, the point within a circle has its roots in ancient times, as well as elements of religious significance. Regardless of the origin of the point within a circle, it has become one of the most easily recognizable symbols in Freemasonry today.
The origins of the point within a circle
Most sources relate the origin of the point within a circle to ancient history, as is the case with much Masonic symbolism. It is linked to the Masonic ancestors when symbols such as the Blazing Star, the Sun, the Moon, and others became important symbols to guide early man’s lives.
What is sure is that the point within a circle was used as a symbol by men long before King Solomon’s time and was passed on from generation to generation and has evolved significantly over time.
The point within a circle has been used in different cultures as important symbols on monuments, artifacts, and many other objects that have been assigned to history. Perhaps the earliest examples of the point within a circle were a significant part of ancient Egyptian culture.
In ancient Egyptian carvings, the point within a circle was used as part of the Alpha and Omega symbols, and this was seen to be a representation of God’s existence. The two vertical lines that flank the circle in ancient Egypt were displayed as snakes, perhaps an indication of the underworld’s presence.
The point within a circle was widely displayed on ancient Egyptian monuments and was an important symbol of power, strength, and reminded people of an afterlife’s existence.
The adoption of the point within a circle in Freemasonry
While similar in many respects to the point within a circle displayed in ancient Egypt, the symbol has a very different meaning to its Egyptian origin.
For Freemasons, the point within a circle represents St. John the Evangelist, who is celebrated on December 27th, and St. John the Baptist, who is celebrated on June 24th. Both Johns are patron saints of the Freemasons and are significant in Masonic teachings.
It’s widely understood that the celebration of these two days are important days in the Masonic calendar. Yet, Masons often misunderstand why these days are celebrated and often don’t link the saints to the point within a circle.
To understand the significance of the point within a circle in Freemasonry, we need to understand St John’s first lodge’s genesis in Jerusalem.
St. John the Evangelist and St. John the Baptist
The earliest Mother Lodge, as Freemasons understand it, was the Lodge of St. John, which was in Jerusalem. The existence of the lodge in Jerusalem was first dedicated to St. John the Baptist before being dedicated to St. John the Evangelist. Today, the Mother Lodge is dedicated to them both.
Today, Freemasons refer to this lodge in Jerusalem as the Lodge of the Holy Saints John of Jerusalem. The lodge is hugely significant to Freemasons, as it is from this primitive site that all other lodges across the world descend.
Who was St. John the Evangelist?
St. John the Evangelist is often referred to by Christian scholars as the disciple that Jesus liked the most. In Christian writings, he is also known as John the Apostle, and he is accredited with writing the Gospel book of John in the Bible, as well as the book of revelations in the New Testament.
If we look at Christian teachings from the time of Jesus, we learn that St. John the Evangelist was one of Jesus’ most faithful disciples and was with him until the very end. He had a long life, living ’till the age of ninety before dying in Turkey.
In Ephesus, the site of John the Evangelist’s death, a church was built over his tomb. Presently, a beautiful mosque stands upon the place of his death and is a popular site for pilgrims.
He is one of the most significant characters portrayed in the Bible, and his teachings form much of the foundation of modern-day Freemasonry.
Who was St. John the Baptist?
St. John the Baptist was a stern man with a strong character. Throughout his long life, John the Baptist developed a popular ministry and gained many followers, preaching on many important topics of the day.
He was a direct descendant of the son of Abraham and was an age-mate of Jesus, playing a central role in his life. He famously baptized Jesus and called him the Lamb of God. John the Baptist was killed when he was admonished by Herod, by whom he was imprisoned and eventually beheaded.
The two St. Johns play a vital role in the symbolism of Freemasonry today. The saints are said to represent an instance of purity, zeal, simplicity of manners, and an ardent wish to benefit making by following their example.
The two Saint John’s and the point within a circle
For Freemasons, as well as being patron saints, the John’s are represented in the point within a circle. The line on the left of the circle is said to represent St. John the Baptist, and the line on the right is said to represent St. John the Evangelist.
As we have already explored, the two saints pay homage to the original Mother Lodge in Jerusalem. They are a constant reminder to Freemasons of the origin of the lodges that have spread all over the world today.
Moreover, the lines on either side of the point within a circle are a reminder that on either side of God stand men of righteous nature and who are responsible for living in a way that is moral and just. The two saints were men of outstanding virtue, and their inclusion within Masonic symbolism is vital for Masons to remember.
While there is no evidence to suggest that either of the Saints were stonemasons, they are still viewed as iconic figures within the brotherhood, mainly due to their strength of character and Godliness.
Understanding the Masonic point within a circle
Now that we’ve explored some of the historical significance behind the point within a circle let’s begin to understand what the point within a circle represents within Freemasonry today.
In the present day, you may often see this famous Masonic symbol with a B on the outer left side and an E on the outer right side. As has already been mentioned, these two letters represent John the Baptist and John the Evangelist, respectively.
The letters VSL are often inscribed above the circle, and in Freemasonry, this stands for the Volume of Sacred Law.
In its simplest form, the Masonic point within a circle can be understood by the symbolism of its two component parts:
- The point is said to represent the individual Masonic brother.
- The circle is said to represent the boundary line of his duty to God and his fellow man. The circle represents the boundary where a man should not allow his passions, prejudices, or interests to betray his loyalty to his brothers.
Furthermore, the circle is a poignant reminder to Masons that they are circumscribed, and those that enter one’s personal circle have the ability to affect one’s life in different ways.
The symbolism is powerful and is a reminder to Freemasons that while they can’t necessarily control who enters their circle, they can control how they react to those entering, affording the brother a sense of calm and control.
One of Freemasonry’s paramount moral ideals is goodwill to fellow men and living a life following ethical and accountable values. The circle represents the importance of living these values, even when unexpected things happen in life.
From a slightly different perspective, Freemasons see the circle as a dividing line between internal passions and duty to God. Belief in the supreme being is imperative to Freemasonry, and the circle is a reminder that God is always watching and always holds brothers to account for their actions. In addition to this fundamental description, the modern point within a circle in Freemasonry also has other important symbolism.
Many Freemasons believe the point within a circle represents the harvest, which is the highest and the lowest point of the sun. Throughout history, the time of the harvest signifies when seeds are bountiful, and men can eat and reap what they have sewn.
Symbolically, the harvest represents the ability to celebrate at the end of a long period of labor and signifies the importance of hard work and how it is rewarded. This is an important value of the Masonic movement and is said to be represented by the point within a circle.
The summer and winter solstices
The summer and winter solstices signify the contrasting cycles of life, and in ancient times, festivals were held on these days. In today’s calendar, the days fall on June 21st and December 21st, respectively. The solstices represent the first fruits in the spring and the fall harvest.
Conclusion: the point within a circle – an interesting history and important present
It’s clear from this article that the symbolic point within a circle was used by cultures long preceding Freemasonry and has been understood differently by different peoples spanning multiple generations.
However, what is consistent is that the point within a circle has always been a significant symbol reminding man of the importance of their moral virtue and the existence of a supreme being who is watching over a man at all times.
As is the case with much Masonic symbolism, the point within a circle has its roots in ancient Egypt and has important religious significance.
The ancient Egyptian roots of the point within a circle cause many in the present day to speculate that the symbol has a somewhat shady meaning and is part of the secret, cultish element of Freemasonry that conspiracy theorists try and expose.
But to those within the Masons, this isn’t the case. The point within a circle has undoubtedly evolved throughout history and finds itself at the pinnacle of Freemasonry today.
What is consistent throughout Freemasonry’s history to date is that the point within a circle represents man’s position on earth, and they must live virtuously to please their fellow man and God.