from the book Encylcopedia of Freemasonry & its Kindred Sciences
by Albert C. Mackey M. D.
This book is in the public domain. The text was duplicated from the book using Optical Character Recognition software and errors may be present.
Square and Compasses - These two symbols have been so long and so universally combined— to teach us, as says an early instruction, "to square our actions and to keep them within due bounds," they are so seldom seen apart, but are so kept together, either as two Great Lights, or as a jewel worn once by the Master of the Lodge, now by the Past Master—that they have come at last to be recognized as the proper badge of a Master Mason, just as the Triple Tau is of a Royal Arch Mason or the Passion Cross of a Knight Templar.
So universally has this symbol been recognized, even by the profane world, as the peculiar characteristic of Freemasonry, that it has recently been made in the United States the subject of a legal decision. A manufacturer of flour having made, in 1873, an application to the Patent Office for permission to adopt the Square and Compasses as a trade-mark, the Commissioner of Patents, .J. M. Thatcher, refused the permission as the mark was a Masonic symbol.
If this emblem were something other than precisely what it is—either less known", less significant, or fully and universally understood—all this might readily be admitted. But, Considering its peculiar character and relation to the public, an anomalous question is presented. There can be no doubt that this device, so commonly worn and employed by Masons, has an established mystic significance, universally recognized as existing; whether comprehended by all or not, is not material to this issue. In view of the magnitude and extent of the Masonic organization, it is impossible to divest its symbols, or at least this particular symbol—perhaps the best known of all—of its ordinary signification, wherever displaced, either as an arbitrary character or otherwise.
It will be universally understood, or misunderstood, as having a Masonic significance; and, therefore, as a trade-mark, must constantly work deception. Nothing could be more mischievous than to create as a monopoly, and uphold by the poser of lacy anything so calculated. as applied to purposes of trade. to be misinterpreted, to mislead all classes, and to constantly foster suggestions of mystery in affairs of business (see Infringing upon Freemasonry, also Imitative Societies, and Clandestine).
In a religious work by John Davies, entitled Summa Totalis, or All in All and the Same Forever, printed in 1607, we find an allusion to the Square and Compasses by a profane in a really Masonic sense. The author, who proposes to describe mystically the form of the Deity, says in his dedication:
Yet I this forme of formelesse Deity,
Drewe by the Squire and Compasse of our Creed.
In Masonic symbolism the Square and Compasses refer to the Freemason's duty to the Craft and to himself; hence it is properly a symbol of brotherhood, and there significantly adopted as the badge or token of the Fraternity.
Berage, in his work on the higher Degrees, Les plus secrets Mystéres des Hauts Grades, or The Most Secret Mysteries of the High Grades, gives a new interpretation to the symbol. He says: "The Square and the Compasses represent the union of the Old and New Testaments. None of the high Degrees recognize this interpretation, although their symbolism of the two implements differs somewhat from that of Symbolic Freemasonry.
The Square is with them peculiarly appropriated to the lower Degrees, as founded on the Operative Art; while the Compasses, as an implement of higher character and uses, is attributed to the Decrees, which claim to have a more elevated and philosophical foundation. Thus they speak of the initiate, when he passes from the Blue Lodge to the Lodge of Perfection, as 'passing from the Square to the Compasses,' to indicate a progressive elevation in his studies. Yet even in the high Degrees, the square and compasses combined retain their primitive signification as a symbol of brotherhood and as a badge of the Order."