The Masonic Trowel

... to spread the cement of brotherly love and affection, that cement which unites us into one sacred band or society of brothers, among whom no contention should ever exist, but that noble emulation of who can best work or best agree ...

[What is Freemasonry] [Leadership Development] [Education] [Masonic Talks] [Masonic Magazines Online]
Articles] [Masonic Books Online] [E-Books] [Library Of All Articles] [Masonic Blogs] [Links]
What is New] [Feedback]

 Masonic quotes by Brothers

Search Website For

Add To Favorites

Help Me Maintain OUR Website!!!!!!

List of Contributors

PDF This File

Print This Page

Email This Site To ...

past master's jewel

by T. M. Spencer

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 him.

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 angle triangle.

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 observed.'

back to top

[What is Freemasonry] [Leadership Development] [Education] [Masonic Talks] [Masonic Magazines Online]
Articles] [Masonic Books Online] [E-Books] [Library Of All Articles] [Masonic Blogs] [Links]
What is New] [Feedback]

This site is not an official site of any recognized Masonic body in the United States or elsewhere.
It is for informational purposes only and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion
of Freemasonry, nor webmaster nor those of any other regular Masonic body other than those stated.

DEAD LINKS & Reproduction | Legal Disclaimer | Regarding Copyrights

Last modified: March 22, 2014