By: W. Bro. R.E. Salmon; January, 1987. Grand Lodge of Saskatchewan (Canada)
Albert Mackey discusses the square as “one of the most important and significant symbols in Freemasonry”
The French Masons have almost universally presented it with one leg longer than the other, thus making it a carpenter’s square. The American Masons have, while generally preserving the equality of length in the legs, unnecessarily marked its surface with inches, thus making it an instrument for measuring length and breadth, which it is not. It is simply the ‘trying square’ of a stonemason, and has a plain surface; the sides or legs embracing an angle of ninety degrees, and it is intended only to test the accuracy of the sides of a stone, and to see that its edges subtend the same angle.
In looking around at a few examples, if we see that the symbol of the square and compasses on our monthly summons is correct; the square is plain. However, some lodges are apparently in error in having the square (on the cover) graduated in inches.
The Book of Constitution correctly has a plain un-graduated square. Nevertheless, the symbol on the doors at the Grand Lodge office in Regina has a graduated square.
This is a small point, and one evidently not widely recognized. Nor is it one that will be readily corrected. However, it is desirable that the true form of so important a symbol be preserved, and it doesn’t hurt to be aware of the correct expression of the Masonic Square.
Candidates for the F.C. degree hope to obtain the privileges of the degree by “the assistance of the square”. The Lodge, in the F.C. degree, is duly opened on the square.
Note Candidates are obligated within the square. Masons move on the square in the course of their Masonic duties.
The square has been used symbolically for thousands of years by non-Masons as well as by members of the Craft.
The ancient Egyptians word for “square” was used as meaning “just” and “proper”.
To the non-Masonic public today, a transaction is noted to be “on the square” when it is honest and above board.
As a Masonic symbol, the square is very ancient and was familiar to the operative Masons.
In 1830, workmen rebuilding a bridge near Limerick, Ireland, found and old corroded brass square, inscribed with the words
“I WILL STRIVE TO LIVE WITH LOVE AND CARE UPON THE LEVEL – BY THE SQUARE”, and dated 1517.
I spoke earlier about the true form of the Masonic square. It is an error to give it one leg longer than the other, making it a carpenter’s square. It is also wrong to mark its surface in inches (or even centimeters). This makes it an instrument for measuring length and breadth, which it is not. It is the simple trying square of the stonemason, intended only to test the accuracy of the sides of a stone.
But however drawn, the square remains a symbol of morality, of truthfulness, of honesty, as it has been recognized as such, both within and outside Masonry for many centuries.
I have found it amazing that so many of us simply take the Square for granted and do not
(until now) know its full meaning and correctness.
Have a wonderful Day & God Bless