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Squaring

the Circle From a Freemason Square & Compass Kerry A. Shirts Eagle Rock Lodge 19 Idaho Falls, Idaho October 20, 2010 The most famous Masonic symbols are the square and compass united in an eternal bond of love and friendship. I have discovered for myself another way of viewing them as I prepared to present the Staircase Lecture of the Fellowcraft degree in lodge for the Nirst time. At the back of this paper in the appendix is given all sacred geometrical Nigures, calculations, and relationships that I discuss in this paper. It is something we need to see how works, as well as draw for ourselves to get it in our gut how it works. In the Staircase Lecture, Freemasonry emphasizes Geometry as the most important of the 7 Liberal Arts of Antiquity. The square and compass holds an esoteric, symbolic meaning that is largely lost on the world, and on many a Freemason as well. The actual geometry of the square and compass, their constructing geometrical shape, and their combination together as a single unit is hiding one of the most interesting mysteries. Allow me to explain. Everyone knows that a compass is used to produce circles, while the square is used to produce, what else squares! These instruments demonstrate the symbolism of contradictions, differences, and unique moral lessons. A circle is the opposite of a square as surely as mortality is the opposite of immortality, and yet, the meaning and symbolism of the squaring of the circle from antiquity has a profoundly deep and amazing lesson to teach us. The squaring of the circle was the basis for many of the Medieval Gothic Cathedrals with their astonishing multi-storied levels of astounding architectural miracles. We Freemasons, as inheritors of the ancient ideas, the ancient laws of number canon and law of ratio and proportion in sacred geometry, learn that geometry teaches us moral truths. And yet all the compass and square does is draw circles and squares. So what? How can geometry, the mathematical science of shapes, teach moral truths? Symbolic mathematics provides a map of our own inner psychological and sacred spiritual structure.[1] One of the great keys to the reason for our emphasis on Geometry in Freemasonry is because by using the compass and square, physically to produce shapes before our eyes, we learn to pay attention to paying attention to that which the symbols refer to within us. When the lessons of symbolic or philosophical mathematics seen in nature, which were designed into religious architecture or art, are applied functionally (not just intellectually) to facilitate the growth and transformation of consciousness, then mathematics may rightly be called sacred. To me, the terms sacred arithmetic and sacred geometry only have signiNicance when grounded in the experience of self-awareness.[2]

The power of shape and the mathematics involved in shape is astonishing for what it can teach us about ourselves. The compass and square is one of the surest guides to showing us why and how Freemasonry works, thrives, and survives the ravages of time and criticism. They are not mere decoration, but physical embodied truth, as well as means to attain the truth of self when used. The point within a circle is one of the oldest symbols for Deity known from hoary antiquity. It also was a symbol for the sun, which was also known as the giver of life, because that is exactly what it does, in fact, do. The point within a circle is one of Masonrys great symbols. Our compass precisely gives us this symbol every time we use it, physically, to draw a circle on a piece of paper. One very important thing for us to begin to understand is that it is literally necessary for us to take a real compass and square, and use them to make the geometric shapes. It is a meditation that is important for us to not only enact by doing, but see, feel, and understand what it is we are doing with our tools of the craft. To participate is the main lesson and point of having our tools, not merely look at them and say yes, that is their meaning, but I dont have time to actually sit down and do this. If we say to ourselves I see them used on the Volume of Sacred Law in our lodges during or rituals, and that sufNices for me to understand their meaning, we miss out on an amazing transformation of ourselves into the higher spiritual laws of which the square and compass are but guide posts to get us to act, by using them literally to produce the circle and square. From a point to a line, from a line to a superNice, from a superNice to a solid. The lecture is saying get the instruments and make these Nigures ourselves to enact them, create them, feel them, see them, and really learn their meaning. They teach us what it is we are ourselves. They teach us WHAT it IS we ARE ourselves. I am serious, but this comes through acting, through participating, and creating the laws, ratios, shapes and proportions, with our working tools working tools not viewing tools, of Freemasonry, the square and compass, with pencil and paper. To do is to learn. To do is to live and realize who and what we are. It is an exercise that awakens us to the reality of what we Nind ourselves in, our meaning for our lives here in this world surrounded by nothing else than pure geometry of ratio and pattern of eternal laws, of which we are, but a part of the whole. Leonardo Da Vincis Vetruvian man whose arms and legs are spread out within a circle within a square, perfectly proportional to both geometric Nigures, is an outstanding artistic graphic of this. The sacred Geometrician Robert Lawlor has shown and taught that modern quantum physics now proves that reality is the concept that the fundamental nature of the material world is knowable only through its underlying patterns of wave forms. Both our organs of perception and the phenomenal world we perceive seem to be best understood as systems of pure pattern, or as geometric structures of form and proportion.[3] There is no physical basis of physical reality. The underlying reality of what we think of as stuff is pure pattern, pure geometric pattern, and all matter is is differences of periodicity, as the mathematician Bertrand Russell said.[4] There is no smallest particle to arrive at through dividing a board of wood time and again into smaller and smaller pieces. The complete

underlying thing, the underlying reality is that nothing is there, except geometric pattern, the real law of existence. The architecture of bodily existence is determined by an invisible, immaterial world of pure form and geometry.[5] And astoundingly, it is not the form, the physical, that is invariable but it is the underlying laws of geometry and pattern that are eternal. Within the human consciousness is the unique ability to perceive the transparency between absolute, permanent relationships, contained in the insubstantial forms of a geometric order, and the transitory, changing forms of our actual world. The content of our experience results from an immaterial, abstract, geometric architecture which is composed of harmonic waves of energy, nodes of relationality, melodic forms springing forth from the eternal realm of geometric proportion.[6] Our Staircase Lecture teaches us that the beginning of all geometrical matter is the point. Euclid taught: Semeion estin ou meros outhen A point is that which has no part.[7] The Pythagoreans deNined the point as a monad having position and Aristotle further elaborated that what has a position and is indivisible is a point.[8] It is a very interesting point (pun, pun) that the original concept of unity from antiquity while represented by a circle, is then restated in the concept of the Real-Idea, the thought of God, which the Hindus called the bindu or seed, what we call the geometric point. The point, according to the Shiva Sutra Vimarshint Commentaries, forms the limit between the manifest and non-manifest, between the spatial and non-spatial. The bindu corresponds to the seed-sound idea of the Tantras. The Divine transforms himself into sound vibration (nada), and proliferates the universe, which is not different from himself, by giving form or verbal expression to this self-idea thus the universe springs forth from the Word. This transcendant Word is only a vibration (a materialization) of the Divine thought which gives rise to the fractioning of unity which is creation.[9] Simplicius says that a point is the beginning of magnitudes and that from which they grow. He also noted as Aristotle did that it is by its motion that a point can generate a magnitude.[10] This is one reason why the ancient Pythagoreans were so fascinated by the Tetractys, the triangle of ten dots. Because the top point or dot is the beginning of all manifestation of the laws which reality is based on, which can come into manifestation with the next line of two dots, then the next with three, then Ninally the four. Our lecture teaches this speciFically From a point to a line, from a line to a superNice, from a superNice to a solid. From one to two, three, then four. This Pythgorean science and math was also understood and used by the ancient Hebraic Priesthood of the Jews who used the Pythagorean science of geometry, harmonics, and number in their own theology, reNlected in the creation account of the Bible, as well as in the Temple of Solomon, and among other things in Ezekiels vision of the temple. This theological, mathematical system could have been used and developed by the ancient Zadokite Priesthood of the Second Temple.[11]

It is fascinating in light of what I am going to show with the philosophy and math of the circle verses the square, and their meanings, that we are taught in the Zohar, as well as in the Hebrew writings of Moses de Leon, the transformation of Nothing into Being is frequently explained by the use of one particular symbol, that of the primordial point.[12] Arthur Green noted that the Nirst Sephiroth in the Kabbalah Tree of Life Keter means crown or Circle and from here, out of Keter emerges Hohkmah, the Nirst and Ninest point of real existence. All things, souls, and moments of time that are ever to be, exist within a primal point, at once inNinitesimally small and great beyond measure.[13] And from the point, all existence expands into circular form, harmonizing the polarity of point and line into the complimentarity of circular line[14] This circularity, of this myth of the eternal return theme is powerfully and fully graphed by the compass. This is also shown literarily in James Joyces book Finnegans Wake, which begins in the middle of a sentence and a small letter! If you want to Nind the beginning of that sentence, you turn to the end of the book.[15] This literary masterpiece is a mighty allegory of the fall and resurrection of mankind. It is a strange book, a compound of fable, symphony, and nightmare a monstrous enigma beckoning imperiously from the shadowy pits of sleep. Its mechanics resemble those of a dream, a dream which has freed the author from the necessities of common logic, and has enabled him to compress all periods of history, all phases of individual and racial development into a circular design, of which every part is beginning, middle, and end.[16] The entire staggeringly difNicult, enlightening, entertaining and astonishing reading of the book is a perfect literature view of what a circle is geometrically, the one and the many, the one central point, and the inNinite points which compose the circular line around the point. The great world renowned mythologist, Mercea Eliade has shown that all of ancient mankind constantly returned to their origins, i.e., went back in a circle to their beginnings and re-enacted the creation with their rituals. The creation was continuously enacted by mankind through millennia as we found our ties with our origins which was neither in the beginning or end of time, but is eternal, symbolized in a simple circle.[17] This symbolism of the center was understood to be the summit of the cosmic mountain, the highest point, the navel of the earth, and point of creations beginning. The Mesopotamian tradition was that mans creation at this center point was also the Dur-an-ki, the link between heaven and earth.[18] The Masonic altar in the middle of the lodge is just such a representation of the center point, as the Temple of Solomon was the point in relation to the earth and heaven, the link of the temporal with the eternal, as is an individual person as the point within a circle. Like the great circle of the Precession of the equinoxes of which the Mithraic mysteries elaborated and symbolized, and the Ancient Near Eastern rituals of circumambulation, (circling around a central point as we Freemasons do around our altars in our rituals) which did likewise, or even the symbolisms of the Medieval Tarot Card symbolisms, mankind has always been fascinated with the relation of the eternal with the temporal.[19]

It is precisely the philosophical truth, at once so astonishing, which is rejected by most of mankind throughout the ages and into our supposed modernity and maturing as a civilization, that our square and compass points us to. Lets explore the circle and square mathematically and then arche-typally to see what this incredible symbolism in Freemasonry really speaks of. The ancients, as we have been told many times by many authors, were interested in what is called The squaring of the circle.[20] John Michell explains that Pi denotes the periphery or circumference of a circle in relation to its diameter. Pi is an irrational number, or better yet, a transcendental one, because its decimal goes on forever, without ever repeating, or producing a pattern that we can pin down, and we have taken Pi to literally trillions of units out![21] It is not a whole number, and cannot be a rational one. It is an inNinite number, a transcendental number. How this relates to the square is most interestingly presented to us by Robert Lawlor.
R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz gives an analogy by which this universal and archetypal sense of number can be understood. A revolving sphere present us with the notion of an axis. We think of this axis as an ideal or imaginary line through the sphere. It has no objective existence, yet we cannot help by be convinced of its reality; and to determine anything about the sphere., such as its inclination or its speed of rotation we must refer to this imaginary axis. Number in the enumerative sense corresponds to the measures and movements of the outer surface of the sphere, while the universal aspect of number is analogous to the immobile, unmanifest, functional principle of its axis. Let us shift our analogy to the two-dimensional plane. If we take a circle and a square and give the value of 1 to the diameter of the circle and also to the side of the square, then the diagonal of the square will always be (and this is an invariable law) an incommensurable, irrational number. It is said that such a number can be carried out to an inFinite number of decimal places without ever arriving at a resolution. In the case of the diagonal of the square, this decimal is 1.4142 and is called the square root of 2. With the circle if we give the diameter the value of 1, the circumference will also always be of the incommensurable type, 3.14159 which we know by the Greek letter Pi. The principle remains the same in the inversion; if we give the Fixed, rational value of 1 to the diagonal of the square and to the circumference of the circle, then the side of the square and the radius of the circle will become of the incommensurable irrational type: 1/sq. root 2 and 1/Pi. It is exactly at this point that quantiFied mathematics and geometry go their separate ways, because numerically we can never know exactly the diagonal of a square nor the circumference of the circle. Yes, we can round-off after a certain number of decimal places, and treat these cut off numbers like any other number, but we can never reduce them to a quantity. In geometry, however, the diagonal and circumference, when considered in the context of a formal relationship (diagonal to side; circumference to diameter), are absolutely knowable, self-evident realities: 1:sq root of 2, and 1:Pi. Number is considered as a formal relationship and this type of numerical relationship is called a function The square root of 2 is the functional number of a square. Pi is the functional number of a circle. Philosophic geometry and consequently sacred art and architecture is very much concerned with these irrational functions for the simple reason that they demonstrate graphically a level of experience which is universal and invariable.[22]

So yes, we can use numbers in a numerical sense, and come up with what is real. However, in a relationship sense when the irrational and rational combine in squares and circles, both within themselves, and with a relationship of each other, we have a powerful metaphor for what is our own true and real nature to ponder.

The circle represents inNinity, that which is literally endless, having no beginning and absolutely no end, it is eternal. The square, however, is that which is Ninite, has limits, and we can calculate it using rational numbers. That is why it is literally impossible to square the circle! The area and size of a square is a fundamental calculable known, while the area of a circle is unknowable to precision. But that is not what the ancients were working on. Our modern orthodox mathematicians and scientists completely miss the point of the squaring of the circle when they pooh pooh the ancients for showing and attempting to do this. They were showing the analogy and metaphor for our own reality of who and what we are, by using the two perfect geometric symbols of our nature, the Ninite and inNinite aspect of ourselves. Da Vincis Vetruvian man means this, and powerfully shows this artistically (See Appendix for man being circle and square). They were trying to symbolize the truth of heaven (the circle) and earth (the square), the truth of God (circle) and man (square), and the actual relationship with god and man, the Ninite with the inNinite, etc. From the circle, all shapes have their rising and are produced. It is from inNinity that the Ninite worlds whirl into existence. It is from the inNinity of God that mankind is produced, not as separate and completely different, but of the same cloth, the same, yet different, exactly as the squared circle teaches. Our square and compass teach the uniNication of the Ninite with the inNinite because we are both! The compass produces the eternal circle, the square produces the Ninite square. Putting them together shows the union of heaven and earth, of God and man, returning to the source. Within the concept of number [and hence geometrical shape, e.g., circle and square] there is a deNinite, Ninite, particularizing power and also a universal synthesizing power.[23] Numbers, and geometrical shapes are emblems. Naturally and easily the term emblem became applicable to any painting, drawing, or print that was representative of an action, of a quality of mind, or of any peculiarity or attribute of character. Emblems in fact were, and are, a species of hieroglyphics, in which Nigures or pictures, besides denoting the natural object to which they bear resemblances, were employed to express properties of the mind, virtues and abstract ideas, and all the operations of the soul.[24] A particularly acute observation of the emblems, symbols, and themes given to us from antiquity and up into and through the Renaissance of the Hermetic, Alchemical, and Kabbalistic lore, literature, and art is made by Manley P. Hall who noted:
Locked within these forms are moral truths captured geometrically in stone and marble and artistically in ornaments, embellishments, and other designs. The spiritual, philosophical, and scientiFic secrets of the past are preserved, but concealed in the symbolic forms of mythology, drama, poetry, and fables. [and I, Kerry Shirts, would add geometry][25]

Hall also noted and demonstrated in his richly and beautiful book on Mandalas, that the mandalas are cosmic patterns on the level of universal truth, and by extension, reveal the internal composition of mans complex nature.[26] This is precisely what the Masonic square and compass do, as they also on yet another level add to the

dimension of their meaning by producing (as we draw them ourselves using our working tools) the squared circle. This contradictory enigma works absolutely perfectly since in the square yet roundly domed churches and other buildings, the square represents the earth held in fourfold embrace by the circular vault of the sky and hence subject to the ever-Nlowing wheel of time. When the incessant movement of the universe, depicted by the circle, yields to the comprehensible order, one Ninds the square. The square then presupposes the circle and results from it. The relationship of form and movement, space and time, is evoked in the mandala.[27] Masonic scholar Rex R. Hutchens indicates the Masonic square and compasses may also represent the duality of light and darkness in the universe, and, in fact, may represent the universe itself, an interesting angle on this theme we are developing. [28] These mandalas were anciently built right into the very structure of ancient temples all over the ancient world. And it began with the tabernacle and tents of Ancient Israel, and the Aron, or Ark of the Covenant as the square box. In the Nigure of a tent we have the perfect precursor to the square churches having round domes. As Mercea Eliade has shown, extensively in the ancient cultures, such as the Lapp, Finns and Estonians, Mongols, Kalmyk, Buryat, Siberian Tartars, and Mongolians hordes, the central pole of the tent is often identiNied with the polestar of the heavens, or simply, the pole of the heavens. From a point (polestar) to a line (the central column of the tent itself representing the space of the universe for inhabitation).[29] The tent represents the circle around the point. In Scottish Rite Freemasonry, The North Star always Nixed and immovable for us, represents the point in the center of the circle, or the Deity in the center of the universe.[30] This architecture was later adapted into the domed churches and buildings of later ages. It was the Weltenmantel, the expanse of the Nirmament. As Hugh Nibley noted:
There are two kinds of temple architecture the circle and the square. At Gilgal twelve stones stand in a circle. Generally the rites are said to be in the form of a circumambulation. The king goes through the land in a great circle [circumambulation], in his royal progress, the kings tour. He visits one by one each holy place, to take possession of his land, something he has to do every year. When he arrives at each, he circumambulates it three times. Thats the combination: the circle and square. To the Pythagorean mystic, the cube represents perfect solidity; the sphere is perfect continual motion. The two must always be together; thus we Find them so combined in ancient temples there is always motion around, but also always stability in the center.[31]

Geometry shows how inNiniteness links with Niniteness, via square and compass. In antiquity, the mysteries were concerned with one main theme found in ancient Judaism, Grecian, Gnosticism, Christianity, Medieval Kabbalah and Alchemy, including the Hermeticists and Rosicruscians. That idea is the squaring of the circle which teaches the divine son represents a uniNication of the human with the divine, of puriNied personality with the eternally subsisting divine essence.[32] The Gnosis concerns the divine nature of ones own essence: the soul appears as a divine spark of light.[33] The Hermetic Asclepius taught what made man immortal was the possession of the nous the power of spiritual perception, mind, reason, spirit, the supreme hypostasis in the realm of the intelligible, original divine principle,

consciousness.[34] The Kabbalists taught this same idea.[35] This wisdom is breathed into man.[36] The ancient Brahmins also taught, according to Albert Pike, One great and incomprehensible Being has alone existed from all Eternity. Everything we behold and we ourselves are portions of Him. The soul, mind or intellect of gods and men, and of all sentient creatures, are detached portions of the Universal Soul, to which at stated periods they are destined to return.[37] And, to add one more voice in the cacophonous chorus of similar sentiments, Jesus of Nazareth also taught The Kingdom of God is within you. (Luke 17:21). Man is thus both of a Ninite nature and an inNinite nature. Geometry, which Freemasonry properly emphasizes, is the very Ninest way to express this using our very own working tools. This is better than winning the sweepstakes. Life and living is the inNinite sweepstakes.

Endnotes
1. Michael Schneider, The Beginners Guide to Constructing the Universe, The Mathematical Archetypes of Nature, Art, and Science, HarperPerennial, 1994: xxiii. 2. Schneider, The Beginners Guide, p. xxiii. 3. Robert Lawlor, Sacred Geometry, Philosophy and Practice, Thames and Hudson, 1982: 4. 4. As quoted in Lawlor, Sacred Geometry, p. 4. 5. Lawlor, Sacred Geometry, p. 4. 6. Lawlor, Sacred Geometry, p. 5. 7. Euclid, The Elements, Books I XIII Complete and Unabridged, Translated by Sir Thomas L. Heath, Barnes & Noble, 2006: 3. 8. Euclid, Elements, p. 3. 9. Lawlor, Sacred Geometry, p. 21-22. 10. Euclid, Elements, p. 4-5. 11. Leonora Leet, The Universal Kabbalah: Deciphering the Cosmic Code in the Sacred Geometry of the Sabbath Star Diagram, Inner Traditions, 2004:5-6. 12. Leet, The Universal Kabbalah, quoting Gershom Scholem, p. 6. 13. Arthur Green, Introduction, in Daniel C. Matts Pritzker edition of The Zohar, Stanford University Press, 2004, Vol. 1:XLVII. 14. Leonora Leet, Universal Kabbalah, p. 11. 15. Joseph Campbell, Mythic Worlds, Modern Words, On the Art of James Joyce, Harper Collins Publishers, 1st ed., 1993: 199. 16. Joseph Campbell and Henry Morton Robinson, A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake, Penguin Books, 1972: 3. 17. Mercea Eliade, The Myth of the Eternal Return, or Cosmos, and History, Princeton University Press, 2nd paperback, 1974. 18. Mercea Eliade, Images and Symbols: Studies in Religious Symbolism, Princeton University Press, 1st paperback, 1991: 43. 19. See the treatment of David Ulansey, The Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries, Cosmology & Salvation in the Ancient World, Oxford University Press, 1989.

For the Ancient Near Eastern ideas of circumambulation or circling around a center to acquire the territory, see Theodor H. Gaster, Thespis: Ritual, Myth, and Drama in the Ancient Near East, Gordian Press, 1975: p. 193, note XL. On the Tarot symbolism of the eternal circle symbolism of the cards and their astronomical as well as personal meanings in our lives, see especially the two excellent treatments of Richard Roberts, Tarot Revelations, Vernal Equinox Press, 1987; and Paul Foster Case, The Tarot: A Key to the Wisdom of the Ages, BOTA, Revised edition, 1990. 20. For a fun popular treatment, see Petr Beckmann, A History of Pi, St. Martins Press, 1971. A typical modern sneering at the impossibility of squaring the circle is Isaac Asimovs Asimov on Numbers, Pocket Books, 1977: 107-111. I say sneering, because Asimov, as so many other modern authors assume the Greeks and other ancients were only involved in the math of squaring the circle instead of the philosophical, religious theme which the properties of the circle and square illustrated allegorically to them. The literalist approach in our modern orthodox mathematicians is astonishingly wrong headed thinking about what the ancients were up to. 21. John Michell, How the World is Made: The Story of Creation According to Sacred Geometery, Inner Traditions, 2009: 36. 22. Lawlor, Sacred Geometry, pp. 11-12. 23. Lawlor, Sacred Geometry, p. 12. 24. Manley P. Hall, Meditation Symbols in Eastern & Western Mysticism: Mysteries of the Mandala, Philosophical Research Society, 1988: 5. 25. Manley P. Hall, Meditation Symbols in Eastern & Western Mysticism, p. 10. 26. Manley P. Hall, Meditation Symbols in Eastern & Western Mysticism, p. 14. 27. Lawlor, Sacred Geometry, p. 16. 28. Rex R. Hutchens, A Bridge to Light, A Study in Masonic Ritual & Philosophy, The Supreme Council 33, 2006:230. 29. See especially chapter 8 in Mercea Eliade, Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy, Princeton University Press, 2nd printing, 1974. 30. Arturo de Hoyos, The Scottish Rite Ritual Monitor and Guide, 2nd edition, The Supreme Council, 33, Southern Jurisdiction, 2009:273. 31. Hugh Nibley, Temple and Cosmos, Deseret Book, 1992: 145-149. 32. Leonora Leet, The Secret Doctrine of the Kabbalah: Recovering the Key to Hebraic Sacred Science, Inner Traditions, 1999: 73. 33. Alexander Roob, The Hermetic Museum: Alchemy & Mysticism, Taschen, 1997:18. 34. Gerhard Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, 10 vols., Eerdmans Publishing, 4:952. 35. Arturo De Hoyos, The Scottish Rite Ritual Monitor and Guide, p. 823. 36. R. B. Onians, The Origins of European Thought, About the Body, the Mind, the Soul, the World, Time, and Fate, Cambridge University Press, 1st paperback, 1988: 58-59. 37. Albert Pike, Morals & Dogma, Supreme Council of the 33, Southern Jurisdiction, n.d., p. 604.

Some Illustrations:

From the circle every other geometric figure comes into being.