An Explanation of Masonic Symbols
Brethren, today I shall present a short explanation of the symbolic meanings of the jewels worn by the officers of the Lodge. This is been taken from the book “THE PERFECT ASHLER AND OTHER MASONIC SYMBOLS” written by Wor. Bro. The Rev. John T Lawrence, P.A.G.Chaplain.
Emblem of the Worshipful Master - The Square
Of all symbols employed by the Freemasons to moralise upon, the square is the most important. It dominates him as well as the Lodge in every way. On his entry into the Lodge, the candidate walks with square steps, round the square pavement of a Lodge. When he first opens his eyes on Freemasonry and sees the light, he beholds the square, and at the same time observes that the principal officer of the Lodge is adorned with the square as his emblem of office.
In our ritual, the square has three distinct and different symbolisms. It is the second Great Light, it is the emblem of the Worshipful Master and it is one of the working tools. Its explanation is practically the same in very case- morality.
Emblem of the Wardens - The Level and the Plumb Rule
The doctrine of equality with which the level is associated needs to be carefully understood. The Senior Warden on his investiture is told that his jewel is to be constant reminder of the duty of impartiality. The level, the fellowcraft is told, is for the purpose of laying levels and proving horizontals. He further learns that the level teaches equality and it demonstrates that we are all sprung from the same stock, partakers of the same nature and sharers of the same hope, and all though distinction among men are necessary to preserve subordination and to reward merit and ability, yet there is no eminence of situation which should cause us to forget that we are brethren, that he who is placed on the lowest spoke of fortune’s wheel is equally entitled to our regard with him who has attained its highest round, for a time will assuredly come when all distinctions save those of piety and virtue shall cease and Death the great destroyer shall reduce us to the same level. You must note that the Senior Warden closes the Lodge and hence is the “Destroyer” or leveller.
The importance attached by the Craft to the plumb rule may be surmised from the fact of it being the badge of one of the principal officers, one of the Craft working tools and the further reference found in the prophet Amos vii 7,8 read during the extended ceremony of closing of the Board of Installed Masters. It is the emblem of uprightness. It is worth noting that in every known language, the words which mean upright have a corresponding moral significance. When he stands upright, a man’s body is pointing in a straight line to the centre, a position in which he cannot mentally err. The plumb also symbolises rain, and suits the description of Junior Warden as the ostensible steward in charge of sustenance of the brethren.
His emblem is a book on a triangle surmounting a glory, or some say the ancient emblem of the sun. The triangle is equilateral, and has been generally held to symbolize the tripartite nature of man- i.e. body soul and spirit – to each of which the Volume of the Sacred Law makes appeal.
The key is the emblem of the Treasurer and therefore serves to protect the property of the Lodge. But it has a deep and far reaching significance beyond the suggestion of security. There are many other things the Freemason locks up beside his cash, and the safe is not only the place of security known to a faithful Brother. There is a safe and sacred repository known to all of us. The key typifies tongue, which can lock or unlock that safe and sacred repository, the heart, in which we preserve our secrets.
The Crossed pens of the Secretary remind the brother of the faithful record he is expected to keep of the history of the Lodge. They further remind not only the Secretary but also every brother of the faithful record kept in the eternal archives of all our thoughts, words and actions. There are two pens, with one to record the history of the Lodge, and with the other to be the medium of communication between the Lodge and its members
The emblem of the deacon is that of a dove on the wing, and bearing an olive branch. The out-stretched wings of the dove suggest speed and haste and the lessons taught to the Deacons by the Installing Master are too familiar to need repetition. More than any officer in the Lodge the Deacon can be the peacemaker. It is part of his unwritten duty to search out absent members, and it is well to bear in mind that continued absence form Lodge is one of the first symptoms of the existence of friction.
The emblem of the Organist which is a stringed instrument bearing the outward semblance of a lyre, informs us that not only the should the Lodge proceedings be conducted in peace, but also, we pray to the Great Architect of the Universe that they may be closed in harmony.
Director of Ceremonies
A pair of crossed batons tied together by a ribbon is the emblem of the Director of Ceremonies. A ribbon seems to be a very flimsy means of ensuring security. The lesson taught here is that authority is not necessarily founded upon force. A baton is in itself a very frail implement with which to enforce a decree-but still it may be more potent than a sword. Authority is only effective when it commands willing assent, and so the Brother who wields it and looks for obedience must cultivate those qualities which will enable him to lead rather that to drive his subordinates.
The jewel of the Inner Guard is two cross swords. The sword is an important emblem of office and is meant to warn every brother not to rush blindly into forbidden mystical territory lest the guardian of that area stands firm with a sword in his hands, thus making the brother accessory to his own spiritual death. The bearer of the sword does not attack with it. He remains firm and does his duty, to use language well known to all of us.
The Tyler is not only adorned with the sword, but is armed with the real thing, not sheathed but drawn and ready for use. The point of the sword is held down. It may be noted that the Tyler, in his place outside the door of the Lodge, should never relinquish his hold of the weapon any more than the Worshipful Master should lay aside his jewel of office.
Brethren this completes the explanation of the masonic symbols of the officers. But before I conclude I also would like to give small explanation on the masonic clothing.
Masonic clothing, according to ancient history comprised of aprons and gloves. Let us start by looking at the apron, the first gift of Freemasonry to the initiate. In bestowing it, the Senior Warden describes it as the badge if innocence and the bond of friendship and goes on to say that if the candidate never disgraces it, it will never disgrace him. A man may disgrace the badge, but under no circumstances can it disgrace its wearer. The apron is the most ancient article of clothing in the world. There hardly can be found any race without the covering for the middle of the body. The plain white apron is restricted to the Entered Apprentice. It is the badge of a Freemason, and whatever ornamentation and colour be super-imposed, let us not forget that underneath all this is that white lambskin. The rosettes possess Masonic significance reminding the Master Mason of the “point within a circle”.
The Collar is a comparatively a modern article of clothing. It is a badge of servitude. It symbolizes the true relationship which should exist between officers and brethren.
The gauntlets have no special moral teaching. They are the relic of the gloves worn by operative masons to protect his hands during work. In the Grand Lodge, only ruling officers wear gauntlets, thus symbolising that they are operative in the ceremonies. However, in District Grand Lodges and Private Lodges, rank holders are enjoined to wear gauntlets as per our Book of Constitutions.