The Masonic Lodge uses the work and tools of traditional stonemasons to symbolize various spiritual truths and ideas about life. These symbols are then used to identify Masons to one another and the world at large. There has been a lot of speculation by non-Masons as to the “true nature” of these symbols, and many have found what they think to be evidence of secret Masonic plots in mysterious symbols on things like the dollar bill, various buildings and other places. The truth is we are fairly open about what our symbols mean; here is a look at some of them.
The Compass and Square
Probably the most familiar symbol of the Lodge is the compass and square crossed with the letter “G” in the middle. This symbol—sometimes called the compasses, plural, and square—has been used by Masons since the Lodge’s earliest days. The square was used by operative Masons (what we call people who make their living carving and laying stone) to ensure that edges were straight and stones were precisely cut. It has come to symbolize the Masonic goal of squaring our conduct by the standard of virtue, ensuring that we are on the straight and narrow path of righteousness.
Most of us have used a compass in geometry class, and it is still used by architects and draftsmen to ensure proper angles and curves. Masons use the compasses to symbolize our circumscribing our desires and passions within due bounds. You can see now why the two tools are shown interlocked—if one allows one’s emotions to be out of control, it is impossible to square your behavior away. And if you allow yourself to become sloppy and undisciplined, it becomes impossible to keep one’s passions under control. These two values are dependent upon one another.
And the letter G? It stands first for “God,” reminding us that we can only serve God if we express the discipline and virtue the compass and square symbolize. Secondly, the G stands for “Geometry,” and the fact that there is an order to the universe which we can come to understand if we look for it in a spirit of virtue and self-discipline.
Another stonemason’s tool that Freemasons have adopted is the level, which operative masons used to make sure that their stones were smooth and flat. This symbol is easy to understand, as it means that all Masons meet “on the level,” meaning that while we have leaders and officers, all Masons are equal before one another and all men are equal in the eyes of God. Conspiracy theorists have a hard time understanding that there is no central command structure for the Lodge, and that Masons seek no power over other people. The level teaches us to seek brotherhood, not rule.
The All-Seeing Eye
Many conspiracy theorists point to the back of the US one dollar bill where the obverse to the Great Seal of the United States is shown, featuring an unfinished pyramid with the All-Seeing Eye hovering over the top of it. The truth is that Masons actually seem to have adopted this symbol in their teachings AFTER it was chosen for the Great Seal. Further, the only Mason involved in the design of the Seal was Benjamin Franklin, whose designs were rejected by the committee heading up the project.
The symbol reminds Masons that God sees all of our actions, and that even if we can keep our sins secret from all other men, we will be held accountable. Like the compass, square and level, it symbolizes an encouragement towards right conduct and virtuous living.