What Size is Your Compass and is your Square Keeping Up?
Short Talk July 8, 2017
Novus Veteris Lodge, UD
Today we will briefly examine two components of the Greater Lights, the Square and the Compass and how these can play an important part of our lives as Masons from a different perspective. We will also review the next sign of the Zodiac, Leo and how this formation relates to the symbolism of the Lodge and our life’s struggle with balance.
Growing up in the Midwest in the 1960s, the majority of our family vacations were to visit family in Oklahoma and Arkansas. I lived next door to my maternal grandparents who were raised during the Great Depression and reflected the financial skepticism and suspicions of that generation about the trustworthiness of institutions and government. That generation was a people who prided themselves not only on their ability to be self-supporting and innovative in providing for their family and community but also seeing that life was more than the individual and how important the family and community could be. Many of the men of that generation were Masons reflecting those that were the business and civic leaders. One uncle in particular stood out, Kermit Castleberry. He was a self-made, man’s man who rose from a construction background to become President of the Carpentry’s Union in Oklahoma. He was a Past Master of Muscogee Lodge No. 93 founded in 1855 and appeared to me larger than life. Reflecting back he was a man whose life was full and one who had a smile on his face and a story to tell. He also was one who believed that you were only limited by your own thinking and beliefs! He was known to have said that whatever happened in life was more about you than others or your surroundings. Asking family members about him I learned that he presented the idea that regardless of circumstances one could overcome and accomplish that which he set out to accomplish but he had to believe in what he was doing and that those beliefs had to serve a greater good. He was not particularly a religious man but had a high moral expectation and standard he lived by. Being a union leader it was said that he was one of the “good guys” that refused to be caught up in the corruption and scandal that often plagues these groups. He was proud to be a Mason and when asked would say that this “way of life” was his guiding force and moral compass giving him a way to “stay between the lanes” and helping him to strive for a balanced life.
Having been raised in a conservative, Midwest Christian environment I have often default in my perspective to a more “limiting” or restrictive view of life and can suffer from “thou shall not” bias rather than seeing what life or a situation might be. As I have grown older I am beginning to understand and appreciate my uncle’s perspective of life and Masonry. Reflecting on the instruction of the Compass’ use within our Masonic traditions, “…to circumscribe our desires and keep our passions in due bounds.” I have begun to see that this instrument is not to minimize us or our lives but, on the contrary, it offers an opportunity to expand and grow that area marked within the circle. In other words we need to get a bigger compass with longer points as we grow in our life and beliefs! I cannot find any Masonic reference where life is to be downsized or restricted but more about enhancing the quality of life and living it to the fullest within our moral guidance. A major part of this is in the mastery of our thinking. If we are not able to master our thoughts then we are subject to control and influence of those people and powers around us. The volume of the Sacred Law tells us that our focus, and by default thinking, is what we become. “As a man thinks so he is!” In the community we call our Lodge, we have the structure to find and maintain a balance that is sorely lacking in the world today. The regular interaction and involvement with each other is a safety net that can provide us with perspective and sanity in our daily life. The early 20th century had many notable men who encouraged “thought control”; one of whom also believed that our thoughts drove the very basics of our lives. Napoleon Hill refers to his Masonic affiliation in his book “Laws of Success” but there is no additional documentation to substantiate his membership. As you read his materials you begin to see our Masonic themes and beliefs. One of Hills “creations” was the promotion of a Master Mind group. This is where a group of people come together on a regular basis to support each other in their business endeavors. These individuals are there not only to support and help grow but also committed to correct and admonish each other within the scope of the business arrangements. This was to be done with the goal of improvement and love, to have opportunity to “sharpen” each other, and celebrate their mutual success. As a Lodge we also are charged to support and uphold each other especially when we see issues and opportunities for improvement. We celebrate our brother’s success and share in the depth of their loss providing that safe environment where we can grow and learn.
There is another aspect of this thought of increasing the size of our compass. Tradition holds that the compass when “setting the jewels” is to be at a 60 degree angle. Balance and symmetric order is required meaning that the square must also be in proportion with the compass to “balance” in setting the jewels properly, covering or uncovering the compass’ points. If we increase the size of the compass we must also increase the size of the square. The square is an angle of 90 degrees and represents the masculine, the Sun, electro-magnetic energy, order, and overall framework of the Lodge and our actions. It is also dedicated to the Master who represents the authority of the Lodge. The compass with its 60 degree angle represents the feminine, the Moon, gravitational energy, the individual’s actions & thoughts which is the actions of the Craft per Jewell Lightfoot in “Lightfoot’s Manual of the Lodge” (1934). Only when these two forces are in balance do we find the universe around us at peace with the world and ourselves. If we increase the size of the circle able to be drawn by a larger frame compass then a corresponding increase in the size of the square must also occur. We are told to square our actions keeping our thoughts within due bounds. When we grow as Masons we balance that increase in life experienced by the measure of and accountability within the moral authority represented by the Lodge as defined within the Volume of the Sacred Law. While this is a different view of responsibility and role and of the Lodge’s precepts, our Lodge can be there to support us in retaining our life’s balance as we grow in our ability to direct our thinking, pushing the boundaries of our lives. Growth (personal or in a society) without accountability is susceptible to become defined by extremism; Lack of growth and questioning is susceptible to become totalitarianism. These concepts apply equally to a group or individual.
A QUESTION FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION. Are you willing to continue growing and to be held in balance with our Masonic precepts or are you holding yourself back?
The Sign of Leo
As we look ahead, beginning July 23 through August 22 the Sun moves into the sign of Leo symbolically associated with affairs of the heart, gambling, leaning to negative thinking and overcoming sensitivity. The Sun is also traditionally tied to this sign which is often considered a dot. In the previous section we discussed the points of the compass where the center post is fixed and like the Sun is the center of our electromagnetic existence. Power, domination, vitality, strength and radiant light are represented. The ancients considered the Sun to be the father of all life, the source of energy, and the controlling potency of our solar system. Those individuals tied to this sign are known to be proud, majestic, in defense of ideal or charges, combative, discreet, magnanimous, self-confident, and kind. The most often identified deity to the Sun is Osiris. Referring back to our Lodge are these also not the ideal characteristics of the Master? We seek that balance of will and action in one that leads us with strength and kindness. In the Entered Apprentice Lodge room the Master is staged as father figure for the new Mason placing him in the North East Corner to have him nearby to instruct and protect.
Like the balance we discussed with the combination of the compass and square, when we look at the Sun and sign of Leo, the strength of the Sun counterbalances the weakness’ of Leo and empowers the individual to move forward with strength and assurance. There are many stories associated with this combination and best characterized around the Lion constellation of Leo. A brief review of the Hebrew story of Samson shows us his personal strength and leadership but also his weakness by distraction in ill fated love. Samson had a strong will but was, like we can be, distracted from his purpose and directed path that lead to his destruction.
Again this month we have an opportunity to benefit from our Masonic symbols and the more ancient symbols associated with the sign of Leo and its correspondence to the Sun. May this zodiac month bring you strength of the Great Lights combined with the balance of the sign and Sun.