By: Byron E. Hams
A Lifetime Apprentice
In freemasonry the interpretation that is given for the point within a circle, bounded by two erect parallel lines, clearly has its origin in the ancient Egyptian hieroglyph and its interpretation. However, most of the original esoteric meaning has been overlooked and the identities of the two grand parallels have been changed, presumably in an endeavor to establish a setting that reflects the traditions of freemasonry. Moreover, in some respects the ancient symbolism has been reversed, insofar as the point is said to be that position which, if occupied by the individual freemason, is one from which he cannot err. In that context the circle represents the boundary line of the individual's duty to God and to his fellow man, while the two grand parallels represent two human paragons of integrity, which is not the same as the union of emotion and wisdom by the encircling power of the Deity that was represented in the Egyptian hieroglyph. As a written hieroglyph, the point within a circle signified the sun and represented light, including the light of wisdom that comes from above. Used with appropriate determinatives, it also expressed many aspects of time and the seasons.
Keeping the above definitions in mind, I will try to detail "The Point Within A Circle" from the Entered Apprentice Degree through the Master Mason Degree. As you will see, I will be taking a little bit from each of the above as we travel through the Degrees.
Also please keep in mind that I am writing this from the standpoint of how "The Point Within A Circle" relates to us as Masons and not how it relates to history.The Entered Apprentice Degree
Upon our first entrance we are received by a point of a compass, which is to teach us two things. Now if we take those two lessons and make them lines we would have one line being the mind and the other being the flesh. Now that we have the parallel lines, lets go back and find the point.
Just what is the point? We the individual members are the points that make up Masonry; each of us is a point in the circle of Masonry, more on that at a later time.
Upon his first entrance into the Lodge the Entered Apprentice is the point of attention, he is first instructed on the mental and the physical, next he is introduced to the Spiritual.
He is conducted to the Alter where the V.S.L. is opened.
Figure 1 We have St. John the Baptist on the left, St. John the Evangelist on the right, and the Volume of the Sacret Law on the top.
The mental and physical as the parallel lines. The V.S.L. above the Alter.
Figure 2 Here I have the Entered Apprentice Apron deplicted as a triangle above the a square. The 3 sides of the triangle representing the Life Spirit, the Human Spirit, and the Divine Spirit. The 4 sides of the square representing the Physical Body, the Vital Body, the Emotional Body, and the Mental Body.
And we have the Entered Apprentice as the "Point"
All that is left is to find the "Circle", and the "Circle" is Entered Apprentice Masonry, which is what you have just stepped off into.
Figure 3 Here I have the circle reprensenting Entered Apprintice Masonry and you the individual as the point.
You have just left the Circle of the profane world and entered into the circle of Masonry and at this point in time the two circles are overlapping each other.
Figure 4 Here I have 2 overlaping circles, the one on the left representing the Profane World, the one on the right representing the World of Masonry, and the overlaping section representing you.
Even though "The Point Within A Circle" is not mentioned at this time in the Degree Work, I hope that I have done a good enough job of laying it out for you to see that the foundation for "The Point Within A Circle" to come is already being laid out.
The Fellow Craft Degree
As in the Entered Apprentice Degree, the Fellow Craft is now the "Point"
In the Fellow Craft Degree, Fellow Craft Masonry is now the "Circle" you have entered into. You should have now left the circle of the profane world and entered all the way into the Entered Apprentice Circle and are now moving into the Fellow Craft Circle.
Figure 5 Here I have 4 circles, the largest one being the Profane World (blue), the one inside of that being the Masonic World (green), then 2 overlaping circles; the one on the left being the world of Fellowcraft Masonry (pink), which you are just entering and the one one the right being the world of Entered Apprentice Masonry (black), which you should have filled by now.
Here the two columns are your parallel lines and they represent Wisdom and Strength. As you pass through the Middle Chamber you have Wisdom on one side to guide you and Strength on the other side to aid you in your Travels.
Here the G.A.O.T.U. is above watching over you and only he knows if your travels through the Middle Chamber are straight down the center getting a equal helping of both Wisdom and Strength, or down one side or the other.
Figure 6 This time the line on the left represents Boaz or Strength, the line on the right represents Jachin or Establishment, and I have the triangle with the all seeing eye inside of it representing the G.A.O.T.U., by now you have some knowledge of the God that is a part of you. As always you are the circle.
Figure 7 Here I have the Fellowcraft Apron represented as a square with the flap turned down inside of the square. The Fellowcraft Apron should be worn with the flap turned down, because it represents the descent of the Spirital into the Material as you can see the Triangle is now within the Square.
The Master Mason Degree
As it was in the beginning so shall it be in the ending, the Master Mason is now the "Point".
The World of Free Masonry is now the "Circle".
You should now have the Wisdom of the Ages to guide you through life and the Strength of Free Masonry to carry you through the hard times. These are the parallel lines that should keep you within bounds with all Mankind and Nature.
Now last and most of all, you should have a steadfast resolution that the G.A.O.T.U. will always be above you and will protect you at all times.
Figure 8 Here I have Mankind or Birth representing the line on the left, Nature or Death representing the line on the right, and the Tree of Life above representing Self or Life. As always you are the circle.
Figure 9 Here I have the triangle respresenting the Master Mason Apron. The Master Mason Apron when properly worn is but a triangle. It symbolizes the triumph of the Spiritual Man from the tomb of his matarial self, which should be the objective of every Fellowcraft by the time he gets to be a Master Mason.
It is hoped that every Master Mason will someday grow from "A Point Within A Circle" into "A Circle" that always Touches upon the Wisdom of the Ages, that becomes the Strength of Free Masonry, and becomes one with the "G.A.O.T.U.".
My mission in Masonry is to try to grown from "A Point Within A Circle" into "A Circle" that will make me all that Masonry meant for me to be.
We will go back full circle to the beginning and take it apart sentence by sentence.
In freemasonry the interpretation that is given for the point within a circle, bounded by two erect parallel lines, clearly has its origin in the ancient Egyptian hieroglyph and its interpretation.
Masonry is a beautiful system of allegory illustrated by symbols, we have the interpretations of the symbols, but I believe that over time the interpretations of the allegory have become lost to most.
Here I have the triangle above the square inside of the circle.
The triangle has 3 sides and the square has 4 sides which gives you 7.
If you put the triangle and square together you get 5.
However, most of the original esoteric meaning has been overlooked and the identities of the two grand parallels have been changed, presumably in an endeavor to establish a setting that reflects the traditions of freemasonry.
I believe that the esoteric meaning were left out because of the fact the meanings would change from degree to degree. As you move from one degree to another your knowledge and understanding would grow and thereby change the way you see things.
Here I have the triangle within the square inside of the circle.
If you count the sides on the inside of the square and triangle you get 6.
If you count the sides on the outside of the square you get 4.
Moreover, in some respects the ancient symbolism has been reversed, insofar as the point is said to be that position which, if occupied by the individual freemason, is one from which he cannot err.
The point is the position that must be occupied by the individual Freemason in order for him to grown into the circle in such a way that he would not be able to err.
Figure 12 Here I have the triangle inside of the circle which has 3 sides.
In the Apron I have found the numbers 3, 5, and 7. and also the
numbers 4 and 6 by the laws of math I need to come up with a 1 and
You are the 1 and 2, the 1 being the Physical Being and 2 being the Spirital Being.
In that context the circle represents the boundary line of the individual's duty to God and to his fellow man, while the two grand parallels represent two human paragons of integrity, which is not the same as the union of emotion and wisdom by the encircling power of the Deity that was represented in the Egyptian hieroglyph.
As I see it the two grand parallel lines represent Wisdom and Strength under the guidance of the G.A.O.T.U.
Figure 13 Here I have the Tree of Life, as each of us is the Tree of Life that we live, meaning that the Tree of Life is not a symbol of something else, but it is our symbol of the lives that we live, and for everyone of us that will be a different symbol.
As a written hieroglyph, the point within a circle signified the sun and represented light, including the light of wisdom that comes from above.
For me the G.A.O.T.U. is my light, and the center of the circle is where I need to be position in order to receive all His Light.
Figure 14 Here I have the Tree of Life inside of the Circle. As we are the Tree of Life, the Circle is the World in which we live. I have no lines on this one because at this point we should be complete within ourselves and receive our guidance from within and not someones elses gudiance from without.
Used with appropriate determinatives, it also expressed many aspects of time and the seasons.
Youth, Manhood, and Old Age are the aspects of time and the seasons that we live through.
In the end, the Circle represents the World we live in and the lives we live represents the Tree of Life that we have lived.
Byron E. Hams
A Lifetime Apprentice
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