Symbolism and Freemasonry

by MasterMason
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by R.W. Bro. Garnet E. Schenk and modified by V.W. Bro. Norman McEvoy

The first symbols that catch the eye of the candidate when he is restored to light are the three great thought emblematic lights of Masonry.  They are the V.O.S.L., the square and the compasses.

The reference to the V.O.S.L., the square and the compasses as furniture of the lodge has a special meaning; it is intended to remind us that the lodge is not furnished or complete unless those three items are present, in place and treated with the utmost respect.

The heart will not have the necessary understanding without the lessons, the philosophy and the teachings of the three great lights. The three great lights are the central point in a lodge and often are referred to as the point within a circle. The three great lights represent the essential elements of the Masonic system. They involve virtue, moral conduct toward fellowmen and reverence to God.

The V.O.S.L. is God’s gift to man and that within its pages can be found the wisdom and the truth that all Freemasons seek. The V.O.S.L. tracing board on which lines and designs are laid out for the guidance of each member. It is important for all Masons to understand and recognize that the V.O.S.L. proves the Masonic claim that men of all faiths, creeds and races may travel the Masonic road together in harmony.

The candidate is taught that the square symbolizes morality and righteousness. It is intended to keep us in touch with God; morality and righteousness cannot be separated. It is God, morality and righteousness that set the standard for the Order and to regulate our life actions.

The third of the three Great Lights, the compasses symbolizes spirituality. The compasses remind the candidate to
“circumscribe your desires and keep your passions within due bounds”.

The Entered Apprentice is taught that those duties are not reserved for the brethren alone but must be exercised toward all men.

The three lesser lights are represented by the sun, the moon and the Master of the Lodge. Without the sun and the moon there would be no planet called “earth” and without the Worshipful Master there would be no Masonic Lodge.

Symbolically the covering of a Masonic lodge is the “Clouded Canopy or Starry Decked Heavens”

and is symbolically shown in some way in most every lodge. It represents that heavenly abode toward which the visionary ladder of Jacob intends to lead us. The Freemason learns of three principal rounds in the ladder; Faith, Hope and Charity.

Masonic charity is in reality love and extends beyond money to the giving of self in caring for the widow, the orphan and those in need. Masonic charity symbolizes the heart of man.

It is implied that the ladder of Jacob has other rounds and that without them the principal ones would be of little use in the heavenward journey. Among them are; brotherly love, relief and truth the tenets of Masonry. To those rounds we can add
temperance, fortitude, prudence and justice. Taken together these rounds symbolize perfection, something every Mason should strive to reach.

It should be noted that fortitude for a Mason symbolizes more than physical courage; it refers to moral courage. It is the maintaining of high principles at all times. Temperance symbolizes restraint. Prudence symbolizes wisdom and justice as practiced by the Mason symbolizes equality.

The words of the Junior Warden’s lecture contain a hidden Truth for those who wish to seek for it. If it is true that Masonry is a progressive science, there is no better symbol of progress than a ladder. Jacob’s ladder represents the intellectual communication between earth and heaven.

The lesson is that the progress made up and down the ladder is meant to teach everyone to descend to the level of his fellowmen in order to fulfill the duty placed up him in the lecture of the north-east angle.

Success in climbing Jacob’s ladder is not found in reaching a specific destination but a continuous step by step journey until he figuratively reaches the top of the ladder resting against the covering of the lodge which is symbolic of Heaven itself.

The candidate is presented with a pure white apron (lambskin) and informed that it will only be honourable if worn worthily by the the candidate. The mason must continue to prove himself worthy of wearing the lambskin by putting into practice the lessons, teachings and philosophy of the Order.

The apron is a symbol of innocence, purity and honour.


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