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What is a symbol?

Today in Masonic History we ask what is a symbol?

A symbols is a person, concept or object which stands for another idea, belief or entity.

Freemasonry is rich with symbols. One need only look on the outside of most lodge buildings to see the symbol of Freemasonry the square and compasses. Symbols can be difficult though, their meaning confused by personal beliefs or biases. A non-masonic and very dark example of this is the Swastika. For most in Western culture it conjures up thoughts of one of the darkest times in human history when millions were killed simply for who they were and what they believed. The Swastika has been used throughout the world though. In Hinduism it's a symbol of good fortune and was used for thousands of years prior to becoming a dark symbol in western culture. Depending on your personal experience you may view a particular symbol in a positive or negative way and your interpretation may have no bearing on what the next person sees in the symbol.

For Freemasonry, the same can be said for the symbols we regularly use. A perfect example is the letter G. Often seen in English speaking countries in the center of the square and compasses. Depending on the jurisdiction and who you ask you may hear the G represents geometry, God or the Grand Architect of the Universe. I am sure there are other examples. Regardless of which a Freemason believes, it illustrates the point. A symbol is something unique to the person who views it. It therefore is easily misinterpreted by someone without the proper context or understanding. Often our symbols are twisted either intentionally or unintentionally by outside observers. There are those who see pentagrams in the square and compasses saying it has a dark or sinister meaning. In mathematics the pentagram can be used to illustrate the golden ratio.

In Freemasonry, regardless of jurisdiction, we are all about symbols. It is through education about those symbols we can properly interpret the lessons of the Fraternity. Despite our best efforts to explain those symbols to the world at large, we are stuck with the nearly impossible task of convincing others to see those symbols through our eyes. A difficult task. We best accomplish this through our actions. How we exemplify the meaning of these symbols outside our lodges, best shows the world their meaning.

This article provided by Brother Eric C. Steele.