Masonic Symbolism



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Masonry describes itself as a "System of Morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by Symbols". The wonderful thing about symbols is that they can mean different things to different people. Indeed, the same individual can re-interpret the same symbol in different ways depending on their life experiences, maturity and philosophy. While there are formal definitions of symbols within Masonry, each Mason is free to meditate upon and interpret them in his own way. Symbols can be a great source of ideas for contemplation and reflection and are used by people the world over for this purpose. Masons have long enjoyed discussing individual interpretations of the rich symbolism in our history, particularly as it relates to moral precepts. It is beyond the scope of this website to provide in-depth analysis of Masonic Symbolism, however, the following might be considered a basic description of some of the more well-known masonic symbols. Note that these descriptions do not necessarily reflect the individual views of members of Lodge University of Sydney or the United Grand Lodge of NSW and ACT. For more comprehensive information, visit the site of the UGLNSW&ACT above


 The Square and Compasses

Probably the most recognisable of all masonic symbols, the square, an angle rarely formed in nature, represents the regulation of conduct required by man toward his fellow man. The compasses are meant to represent the circumscription or self control of passions and prejudices required of an enlightened man. The letter G (which is not part of the NSW graphics), traditionally represents God, or the source of all virtues sought by an enlightened individual.


Pillars or Columns

Masons have long used architectural terms as vehicles of moral instruction. The "five noble orders of architecture" are known as the Tuscan, Ionic, Doric, Corinthian and Composite. The ornamentation, ratios of thickness to height and other features are not masonic in origin, but lend themselves to figurative allegories used in masonic teachings.


Hiram Abiff and King Solomon's Temple

Masons have traditionally associated themselves with a Biblical character known as Hiram Abiff, who was said to be the Chief Architect at the building of King Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem. Scholars are in disagreement as to the real historical existence of Hiram Abiff, with many researchers asserting that he is a purely fictional character. Nevertheless the moral of his personal fortitude in the face of certain death is a behavioural template that is emulated in the teachings of Masonry, while the building of the temple has often been described as a personification of the building of a superior man.

There are many more symbols that are used in the moral teachings of Masonry, many of which are not found in the ceremonial of all Grand Lodges. The autonomy that individual Grand Lodges enjoy, allows them to freely determine the furnishing, arrangement and ceremonial methods they use, so long as they retain the basic symbology and framework upon which Freemasonry is based.