past master's jewel
When and why was the Past Master's jewel adopted and what does
it mean? These questions asked by a newly invested I.P.M. are the raison d'etre
for the following paragraphs.
Bernard E. Jones in his "Compendium" has written: "No one knows why or when it (P.M.jewel)
was adopted as the insignia of a P.M. nor of any Craft ritual that offers any
explanation of the proposition, or any philosophical lesson it may conceivably
teach." H.W. Rylands, Q.C. Vol. 14, p.32 says that in his opinion "no reason
whatever was in anyone's mind when the 47th proposition gradually came to be
recognized as the distinguishing mark of a Past Master.
Instead of disposing of the jewel, these quotations tend to mask it in a mantle
of mystery which invites investigation both of the rank of Past Master and of
the jewel itself.
In the days of operative masonry the rank of Past Master did not exist.
Speculative masonry, with its proliferation of new masters, produced an
increasing number of masons who had been masters of a lodge. They received
recognition and by 1739 the Immediate Past Master had become an important rank.
Curiously enough the I.P.M. is not an officer of the lodge. He is not elected.
No one appoints him. As if by natural sequence he assumes an office to which his
experience, his knowledge and his skill in employing that knowledge entitles
On one thing Rylands, Klein, Greene and others who have written on the subject
agree - when the rank of Past Master became well established in Speculative
Masonry it became necessary to find a suitable badge.
Our ritual establishes a close relationship between "Wisdom" and the I.P.M.
Klein says that since he has left he chair of King Solomon behind him the I.P.M.
has completed the journey from W. to E. and in his heart knows he has found the
object of his quest. Greene says that having completed his spiritual temple, the
I,P.M. is in a position to give counsel and advise to those who are still
engaged in building theirs. In these points of view there is a common
denominator of such significance that an appropriate jewel would necessarily be
a symbol of spleandour.
The previous paper established the eminence of the Past Masters rank and brought
us to the search for an appropriate jewel. In 1727 Grnad Lodge decreed that the
officers of private lodges should wear their jewels on white ribbons around
their necks - a square for the Master, a level for the Senior Warden and a plumb
for the Junior Warden. W.A. Ryland was of the opinion that in the first instance
Grand Lodge officers' jewels were of the same form as those worn in ordinary
lodges. Jones appears to agree but adds that Grand officers' jewels were of gold
or metal gilt while those of private lodge officers were of silver.
Just when the Past Master's jewel first apeared we do not now but the famous
exposures of 1760 and 1762 both say that the Past Master "hath the Compasses and
Sun with a line of chords about his neck". The plumb of the Junior Warden and
the level of the Senior Warden combine to form the square of the Master.
Compasses, the instrument used to work with a center does seem appropriate for
the Past Master. Indeed the Past Master's jewel in Ireland consists of a
compasses added to the Master's square with a capital S in the centre.
In Scotland the Past Master's jewel is a compasses added to the Master's square
with an arc of a circle. About 1800 however, the English jewel was changed to a
gallows square with the 47th Proposition of Euclid pendant within it. In 1840
the gallows square was replaced by an equal arm square. It may be significant
that a photograph in "Grand Lodge 1717-1967" shows the Duke of Sussex, Grand
Master 1813-1943, wearing a jewel - compasses with an arc of a circle enclosing
a blazing sun - to which the present day Grand Master's jewel is similar.
Perhaps the symbolic meaning of the compasses was so sublime that it was desired
for the Grand Master's jewel so that a new one would have to be found for the
Past Master. It isn't too unreasonable to suppose that since the Past Master
graduated from the Master's chair, a suitable jewel would be the Master's jewel
with something added. In England instead of the compasses and letter G as in
Ireland, or the compasses and the arc of a circle as in Scotland, it was the
47th Proposition of Euclid. After all, the 47th Proposition may not have been
such a new and novel thing because the earliest jewel of rank on the United
Grand Lodge museum is a Master's jewel - from possibly about 1730, a plain
silver square with the figure of the 47th Proposition hanging from the angle.
The appropriateness of the present jewel will be considered and this series
concluded next month.
The previous article dealt with the history and exalted character of Past
Maser's rank and the Pythagorean Theorem. The masonic significance of the
proposition remains to be explained.
As long ago as 2,000 B.C. the Egyptians formed a 90 degree angle by stretching a
twelve unit rope, in a certain way, around two stakes five units apart. This
square became for them the basis for a geometric calculation and measurement of
area. To the Greeks it stood for Geometry, the foundation of knowledge. The
Pythagorean Theorem, however, meant all that the square meant and more. In Egypt
the arms of the right angle represented Isis and Osiris, the female and male
principles and the hypotenuse represented Horus the product of the two. The
central point of the figure was the square around which clustered the "System of
the Universe". On this phrase the very life of the Universe rested for the law
held good only when the angle was a right angle. A similar harmony was
recognized by the Arabs who called the proposition the Theorem of the Bride and
by the Greeks who stretched a picture of matrimony under the form of a right
Jones quotes one author as saying that Pythagoras saw in the Theorum a striking
resemblance between the properties of the right angled triangle and some great
truth - probably of a philosophical nature. This statement might be related to
E. Shure's portrayal of Pythagorus after contemplating the light of the
constellations (heaven) the heart of Demeter (earth) and the human breast (man)
concluding that the scecret of the Kosmos lay in the syntheses of three factors.
To him the harmony of the three squares might have represented such a syntheses.
There are reputable students of Speculative Masonry who see in the inexorably
harmonious relationship of the squares an allusion to three divine attributes of
the G.A.O.T.U. - attributes which are reflected in man the microcosm, assuring
him that the essential parts of his nature will be harmoniously adjusted if
working with the center he sees to it that every angle at his "circumference" is
a right angle. The allusions to perfection are obvious.
Haywood summing up the symbolism of the propositions says: "It is not too much
to say that there would have been no ancient Masonry without the three, four,
five triangle, of the principle embodied in it; therefore it has for us a
peculiar value in that it represents the skill of our early brethren in
surmounting their obstacles. Since this principleis so essential to the exact
sciences we may agree with our Ritual in seeing in it a symbol of all the arts
and sciences. Just as a crown may serve as an emblem of all government so may
this triangle serve as an emblem of all science. And since Masonry undertakes to
make character building into an art or a science we may also find in the
triangle, as Dr. Anderson says, 'the foundation of all Masonry if duly
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