Sadly, I am repeatedly scolded by some of my Masonic brethren for researching Masonic lineage. I am so often told that I am simply making things up to fit a narrative that does not exist. Like my latest endeavor, the square and compass, which has resulted in this accusation being repeated again and again by well intentioned protectors of the craft.
As a student of Albert Pike, I have learned so much in the past several years about Masonic history; of which many Masons refuse to accept. As I have said before on this blog, it is much easier to believe the post 1717 narrative than to look for anecdotal evidence of Masonic lineage; like Pike did in his book Morals and Dogma (1871). His evidence is overwhelming, so much so that pundits simply attack his work instead of trying to understand it. Case in point, on page 277-278, Pike wrote about the first Masonic legislator Buddha, who lived about the fifth century BC:
“The first Masonic Legislator whose memory is preserved to us by history, was Buddha, who, about a thousand years before the Christian era, reformed the religion of Manous. He called to the Priesthood all men, without distinction of caste, who felt themselves inspired by God to instruct men. Those who so associated themselves formed a Society of Prophets under the name of Samaneans. They recognized the existence of a single uncreated God, in whose bosom everything grows, is developed and transformed. The worship of this God reposed upon the obedience of all the beings He created. His feasts were those of the Solstices. The doctrines of Buddha pervaded India, China, and Japan.”
As many Masons are aware, much of our own Masonic history predates the Christ era, and actually emanates from Asia, or the East. Think about it, why does the Master of a Lodge site in the East, among other reasons? One of the reasons is our lineage can be traced to Asia, like the countries of China, India and Japan, which Pike mentioned in the above quote.
I like to put out feelers before I write an article, like I did with this particular topic, in order to get some feedback about pundit thinking. Most of the feedback is positive; however, every once in a while I get an earful from a Mason who has only been instructed in the post 1717 narrative. I don’t know why a Mason feels the need to argue a position based on limited knowledge, but it happens frequently. Sadly, there is no proof in the 1717 narrative, but Masons continue to believe the lie that has been propagated for decades based on nothing more than a limited reading library. There are many good reasons for Albert Pike writing Morals and Dogma, many of which had to do with Masonic conduct, yet just as much of it attempted to tie Masonic history together; but only if one becomes a student of the book. His intentions where clear and simple, he wanted to help solve this debate, which has caused so much strife within the craft. Nevertheless, like I mentioned earlier, instead of trying to understand his work, pundits would rather attack a dead man who only tried to help the Brotherhood understand its own past.
Case in point, the history of the square and compass. It is commonly believed that the square and compass, one on top of the other, is a post 1717 creation; not true I am afraid, which is clearly illustrated in this quote, “The so-called ‘Square and Compass’ emblem, which is carved from a sea shell, has aroused wide interest. It was found about 1925 in the eastern edge of the Casa Grande Village about four feet down in a trash mound of the red-on-buff period and the indications are that it was made by the ancient inhabitants about 1,800 years ago.'” Please look at this photograph from the same website:
This square and compass object was discovered in 1925 by Charles E. Manier in Tuscon, Arizona, and is apart of what is called the Tucson artifacts. Needless to say, this discovery has led to much speculation, with several prominent archaeologists divided as to its authenticity. Regardless, this is still further anecdotal proof that the square and compass, one on top of the other, predates the 1717 narrative. In fact, if true, it would date the object to at least 800 AD, if not further back.
Yet, despite the fact there is little proof of the square and compass being together, one on top of the other, this does not mean the square and compass was not used separately to teach an ancient speculative lesson. Here is one image to help illustrate my point that the use of the square and or compass is as old as recorded history, and has been used to remind men (women) of their potential and to help them avoid common errors.
Fu Xi and his sister Nuwa are considered the founders or first rulers of China. Fu Xi is most often given credit for bringing moral standards to the country.
“In the beginning there was as yet no moral or social order. Men knew their mothers only, not their fathers. When hungry, they searched for food; when satisfied, they threw away the remnants. They devoured their food hide and hair, drank the blood, and clad themselves in skins and rushes. Then came Fu Xi and looked upward and contemplated the images in the heavens, and looked downward and contemplated the occurrences on earth. He united man and wife, regulated the five stages of change, and laid down the laws of humanity. He devised the eight trigrams, in order to gain mastery over the world. — Ban Gu, Baihu tongyi.”
Therefore, the square and compass (compasses) have been depicted throughout ancient China. Here are just a few more depictions from the same website to consider, which will further demonstrate the prevalence of its usage:
In fact, in an 1881 Freemason’s Chronicle article entitled Freemasonry in China, it was revealed, “from time immemorial we find the square and compasses used by Chinese writers, either together or separately, to symbolize precisely the same phrases of conduct as in our own system of Freemasonry” (p. 193).
With this in mind, now let us ponder the words of Joseph Newton, who wrote the following in his book, The Builders (1922),
“Long before our era we find the working tools of the Mason used as emblems of the very truths which they teach today. In the oldest classic of China, The Book of History, dating back to the twentieth century before Christ, we read the instruction, ‘Ye officers of Government, apply the compasses.’ even if we begin where The Book of History end, we find many such allusions more than seven hundred years before the Christian era. For example, in the famous canonical work, called The Great learning, which has been referred to the fifth century B.C., we read, that a man should abstain from doing unto others what he would not they should do to him; ‘and this,’ the writer add, ‘is called the principle of acting on the square.’ So also Confucius and his great follower, Mencius. In the writings of Mencius it is taught that men should apply the square and compasses morally to their lives, and the level and the marking line besides, if they would walk in the straight and even paths of wisdom, and keep themselves within the bounds of honor and virtue. In the sixth book of his philosophy we find these words:
‘A Master Mason, in teaching apprentices, makes use of the compasses and the square. Ye who are engaged in the pursuit of wisdom must also make use of the compass and square'” (p. 30).
Therefore, we find The Book of History, which dates back to the 20th century B.C., mentioning the speculative use of the compass; and this is followed up by Confucius, who lived between 551 and 479 BC, and Mencius, who lived between 385 and 302 BC, both of whom also confirmed the speculative use of the square and compass nearly 500 years before Christ. And for me anyway, the biggest glaring example of Masonic lineage is when Mencius (4th century BC) confirmed the use of the term “Master Mason” while using the speculative use of the words square and compass with regard to moral instruction; not strictly operative, which so many pundits have misapplied.
As such, the next time you hear that the square and compass was developed and combined in the last few hundred years (the 1717 narrative again), think again. Yes, it would appear the instruments have almost always had operative and speculative applications.
Furthermore, here is a quote from Pike regarding the Asians influencing the speculative meaning of the square and compass:
“The COMPASS, therefore, as the Symbol of the Heavens, represents the spiritual, intellectual, and moral portion of this double nature of Humanity; and the SQUARE, as the Symbol of the Earth, its material, sensual, and baser portion.
‘Truth and Intelligence,’ said one of the Ancient Indian Sects of Philosophers, ‘are the Eternal attributes of God, not of the individual Soul, which is susceptible both of knowledge and ignorance, of pleasure and pain; therefore God and the individual Soul are distinct:’ and this expression of the ancient Nyaya Philosophers, in regard to Truth, has been handed down to us through the long succession of ages, in the lessons of Freemasonry, wherein we read, that ‘Truth is a Divine Attribute, and the foundation of every virtue.’
‘While embodied in matter,’ they said, ‘the Soul is in a state of imprisonment, and is under the influence of evil passions; but having, by intense study, arrived at the knowledge of the elements and principles of Nature, it attains unto the place of TIE ETERNAL; in which state of happiness, its individuality does not cease.’
The vitality which animates the mortal frame, the Breath of Life of the Hebrew Genesis, the Hindu Philosophers in general held, perishes with it; but the Soul is divine, an emanation of the Spirit of God, but not a portion of that Spirit. For they compared it to the heat and light sent forth from the Sun, or to a ray of that light, which neither lessens nor divides its own essence” (Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma, 851-852).
Therefore, as to the question of the importance of the Square and Compass to contemporary Freemasonry; simply stated, it proves without a doubt that our ancient speculative teachings, and our lineage, began with the first records of time, just like the story of Adam, which the 1723 Constitutions of Free-Masons claimed. This important fact can now be added to the other information I have written on this blog, which dismisses the predominant 1717 theme espoused by the Postmoderns today in an effort to disprove the claim made by the Ancients (i.e. York Legend, etc.)
So Mote It Be!
PS: Here are a few other pictures discovered while researching this topic: