The Point Within a Circle
taken and adapted by V.W. Bro. Norman McEvoy from “The Freemason at Work “ by Harry Carr in answer to the Question as to how he would explain this piece of Symbolism. Page 247
The ideal Symbolism is that which is simple and immediately obvious, so that the word or picture instantly conveys its own interpretations e.g. the lily for purity, the lamb for innocence, the level for equality.
In most cases– and especially for the “working tools” — the ritual itself gives an explanation, which is all the more satisfying because it is usually simple and clear.
Occasionally, as on this question, the symbolism is obscure (hidden) or it may bear a wide range of meanings; often the accompanying ritual gives only a faint hint as to the interpretation.
In all such cases, it seems to me, that the best symbolism is that which the Brother can work out for himself.
When in an incautious moment, I said this in Masonic company, I was challenged with the question above and, as a penance, I must answer it now without reference to any of the numerous works on Masonic symbolism.
The relevant passages, from the explanation of the “First Degree Tracing Board” may vary in different “workings” but they generally run roughly as follows :-
The point within a circle is the center, the point from which every part of the circumference is equidistant; it is that point from which a Master Mason cannot err etc.
The words in the second part of this passage indicate that the “point” is an ethical one.
It implies the specific foundation upon which the Mason should base his standard of conduct and, so long as he adheres to it “he cannot err”
To define that standard in simple Masonic terms, the words that come instantly to mind are from Dr Anderson’s First Charge, in 1723… to be good Men and true, or Men of Honour and Honesty……
The first part of the passage under discussion is more difficult to interpret. It appears to be a plain statement of geometrical fact, but we may perhaps assume that a moral or symbolical lesson is embodied in it.
The Prophet Isaiah, in the Old Testament Book of the same name, (Chapter 40 verse 22) used the circle to symbolize the World, and it has been similarly used ever since.
If we visualize the “point” at the center as the individual Mason, and the World at Large as the circumference, where all are equidistant from him, this might be interpreted as a Masonic lesson in equality.
There are two items in the Ritual which, in my view, are directly related to this “equidistant” theme.
First……to keep in due bounds with all mankind…….the other is more explicit:
Let no eminence of situation make us forget that we are Brothers, and he who is on the lowest spoke of fortunes wheel is equally entitled to our regard,
The “point within a circle” has an immediate religious significance (which parallels the point , or “YOD” within the equilateral triangle) as the Symbol of the Deity.
The “point and circle” call to mind the many illustrations in the early Bibles. of the
Creator with the Compasses, so that we see the symbol; as a clear emblem of the Great Architect of the Universe.
The ideas and lessons to be drawn from this starting point are unlimited but the simple themes outlined here are very satisfying.
The “point and circle” convey other lessons too.
The point —without length or breadth –implies man’s insignificance, and his dependence on his fellow man.
The circle is, indeed, a symbol of perfection, a divine attribute; without beginning or end, it is a symbol of infinity and eternity.
When we take these two ideas together, the helplessness of man in relation to the Infinite, or the Eternal, we approach a religious theme, the relation of Man to God, and here we touch on mystery so obscure, or problems so difficult to answer in plain logic, that we find refuge or understanding in FAITH.
I am by no means adept in the study of symbolism, but in my experience too many of the writers in this field tend to give explanations which are so devious and far-fetched that they confuse the readers instead of enlightening them.
I hope to escape that accusation. Harry Carr
This is a piece of Symbolism that, over the ten year history of The Educator I have avoided attempting to share simply because I could not find a simple & understandable paper dealing with same.
It is my belief that Harry Carr has done a magnificent job with this explanation & once again cements the teachings of Freemasonry and reminds us that we are all equal under God.
The adaptation by the adding of emphasis : italics and colour are mine & I do hope & pray that Harry Carr would understand.
Have a wonderful day & God Bless