The point within the circle

Discussion in 'Masonic Education' started by iainmason, Aug 5, 2009.

  1. iainmason

    iainmason Registered User

    It's Meaning & Place in the Lodge.
    By W. Bro. D.B.Wallace;
    Presented 5th February, 1915;
    Published by: UNITED MASTERS LODGE No. 167;Auckland, New Zealand.

    For a considerable time it has seemed to me that we Freemasons are in a danger of losing sight of the true inner meaning of some of our Signs andSymbols, and the pure teachings conveyed by them, thus becoming narrow in our views and losing the broad mindedness which should characterise us. In no instance is this more apparent than in the Symbol of the "point within the circle." How many of the average Masons can give an intelligent and satisfactory explanation of it?

    Too much attention is given to the mere ritualistic work of making members, and the W.M. who can do this without a single slip or alteration ofa word from those laid down in the Ritual is accounted a good and efficient Master. But making members is not making Freemasons. A Worshipful Master may be able to repeat the Ritual from cover to cover, but without a fair knowledge of the inner meaning of our rites and ceremonies, our signs and symbols, he is incapable of imparting instruction to his Brethren.

    After the re-organisation, in 1717, the Grand Lodge of England authorised the Constitutions and Charges to be compiled by Bro. Dr. Wm.Anderson. These were published in 1723, and are known as Anderson's Constitutions. In this, assisted by Bro. Dr. Desaguliers, he arranged the Lectures, for the first time, in the form of question and answer. The Grand Lodge of England adopted and ordered them to be printed.

    Here we have the account of the first, as far as is known, collection and arranging of the Lectures, which had been handed down orally through the Lodges, and, no doubt, differences had crept in which the Grand Lodge desired to eliminate, and to set up a standard for the whole of the Lodges.

    These were again revised by Bro. Martin Clare, afterwards D.G.M.,who added little more than a few words of spiritual admonition and a simple allusion to the human senses and to the theological ladder.

    A few years later Bro. Thos. Dunckerly, an accomplished scholar, and considered to be the most intelligent Freemason of his day, considerably extended and improved the Lectures. He, first, gave to the theological ladder its three most important rounds. According to Dr. Oliver, Dunckerley added many types of Christ. This is the first explicit statement of the addition of the first Christian allusions to be found in the Ritual of Freemasonry. Dunckerlley' s lectures continued the standard in England till 1763, when Bro.Rev. Wm. Hutchinson revised and improved them. He boldly claimed the third degree to be exclusively Christian, a claim which no Freemason of the present day would ever consider for a moment. He, also, gave the Star its Christian significance; in fine, he appears to have exerted his utmost ingenuity to render the degrees empathically Christian in their allusions and teachings.

    Here we have instances of learned Brethren, who were, no doubt, possessed of a sense of their being right, wresting our ceremonies form their true meanings and imparting an altogether wrong interpretation to them. Doubtless, they were actuated by a sincere desire to benefit Freemasonry, but had they made a larger and deeper study of our ceremonies they would have perceived their error in
    trying to give them a Christian character.

    The subject of my paper, the "point within the circle," does not seem to have had any great attention from our Masonic writers, and is in danger of being lost sight of altogether. Indeed, in most of our Lodges a careful search is required to find it.

    In Mackenzie's Royal Masonic Cyclopedia we find the following definition of "the point within the circle":- "A symbol of great importance. Its exoteric explanation is that the point represses in an individual Brother, the circle being the boundary line of his duty to God and man; the two perpendicular, parallel lines, representing the two holy saints, John the Evangelist and John the Baptist. But the esoteric meaning is far different, and would require a volume in itself to explain." Here Bro. Mackenzie is altogether wrong, and he has evidently followed Dr. Oliver in his "Historical Landmarks." We have no proof that the two saints mentioned were Freemasons, and this explanation is merely a further proof of the efforts of our early Masonic writers to Christianise Freemasonry.

    "The point within the circle," certainly, and probably the two parallel lines, were known to our ancient Egyptian Brethren thousands of years before the two Johns were born.

    In Mackey's Lexicon of Freemasonry he states; "This emblem is to be found in every well regulated Lodge, and is explained as representing - the point, the individual Brother; and the circle, the boundary line of his duty. But that this was not always its symbolical signification we may collect form the true history of its
    connection with the phallus of the ancient mysteries. It was communicated from the rites of Osiris to the religious festivals of the Greeks."

    I do not find this view set forth by any other writer and I do not for one moment believe the "phallus" was ever connected with "the point within the circle" by our Ancient Egyptian Brethren, but was probably invented by the Greeks themselves.

    In his "Historical Landmarks of Freemasonry, " Dr. Oliver says:-"Still higher in the Tracing Board we see a 'point within a circle' supported by two vertical, parallel lines. This emblem was formerly illustrated thus:- There is represented in every regular, well governed Lodge a certain point within a circle. The point represents an individual Brother, while the circle portrays the boundary line of his duty to God and man, beyond which he is never to suffer his passions, prejudices or interests to betray him. The circle is embroidered by two perpendicular, parallel lines representing St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist, who were perfect parallels in Christianity as well as Masonry, and upon the vertex rests the Holy Bible, which points out the whole duty ofman. In going round this circle we must necessarily touch upon these two lines as well as upon the sacred volume, and, whilst a Mason keeps himself thus circumscribed, it is impossible that he should materially err."

    Happily, these Christianising teachings were never fully adopted by many of the Blue Lodges or the Jews, of whom we have many enthusiastic and highly esteemed Brethren, as well as many members of other creeds who could not have joined our Grand Institution.

    In his "Signs and Symbols of Freemasonry" Dr. Oliver says:- "A primary idea which would suggest itself to the mind of Adam when engaged in reflections on his own situation, the form of the universe, and the nature of all its objects presented to his view, would 'be that the creation was a circle and himself the centre.' This figure, implanted without an effort, would be ever present in all his contemplations, and would influence his judgment, to a certain extent, while attempting to decide on the mysterious phenomena which were continually before him ." These statements are so puerile and illogical as to need no refutation.

    Bro. General Albert Pike, the American writer, in his "Morals and Dogmas, says:-" There is no sight under the sun more pitiful and ludicrous at once, that the spectacle of the Prestons and Webbs, not to mention the later incarnations of Dullness and Commonplace undertakings to 'explain' the old Symbols of Masonry and adding to and 'improving' them or inventing new ones. To the circle enclosing the central point, and itself traced between two parallel lines, a figure, purely kabalistic, these persons have added the super-imposed Bible, and even reared on that the ladder with three or nine rounds and then given a vapid interpretation of the whole so profoundly absurd as actually to excite admiration."

    Here we perceive General Pike has a very clear idea of the importance of "the point within the circle," and of the Bible, the ladder, and, perhaps, the two parallel lines having been added by recent compiles of rituals with a Christianising bent of mind.

    To understand the importance of this Symbol we must go back to the Ancient Egyptians, from whom we claim to derive our origin, and the nearer we can get back to their teachings the broader and more comprehensive will our Institution be.

    As, no doubt, you are all well aware, the religion of the Ancient Egyptians, as paractised by the higher priesthood, was a pure monotheism. They believed in the one, true, living God, the Architect and Ruler of the Universe.

    They were, from the very earliest ages, great students of Astronomy, and had an extensive knowledge of the movements of the heavenly bodies.

    Many of our writers state that the point within a circle is a hieroglyphic sign for the Sun, but this is evidently an error, as there could be no point; the circle is a hieroglyphic sign for the Sun, but this point had an entirely different origin.

    In their study of the heavens one of the first things which they would observe would be that the whole of the stars made a complete revolution once in a year, with the exception of the constellation "Ursa Minor" or "Little Bear, " which remained fixed in one position, and was apparently the centre round which the universe revolved. These seven stars were then consider as the emblems of the seven attributes of the Deity, and were called by them "the seven glorious ones." Continued observations, extending over hundreds, perhaps thousands of years, and which must have been duly recorded, showed them that these seven stars also revolved once in a period of 25,827 years, which was called by them "the long year," and each one of these stars, in turn, became the centre, or polar star, round which the others seem to revolve. The North Polar Star therefore, became the "point" round which the circle (the universe) revolved, and represented the Supreme Being, fixed, immutable and eternal, or the All-Seeing Eye of the Deity.

    It is impossible to form any idea of the antiquity of this symbol, but it must have been in use thousands of years before the building of the Great Pyramid, as the opening in the north side of the Pyramid was so constructed that each of these seven stars, in turn, shone straight into it, as it became the true Polar Star.

    Bro. Dr. Albert Churchward, in his "Signs and Symbols of PrimordialMan, " says:-
    "The earliest supreme power figured in Heaven in a masculine shape was the power of Stability and Equilibrium, associated with fixity of the Pole Star. This was first assigned to Anup, in the form of a Jackal; then to Horus 1; then to Ptah, the Great Architect; and finally to Osiris, the power that held all things in equipoise.

    The Pole Star is the first fixed point within a Circle, not the Sun, and the earliest Supreme Being at the head of the seven primary stars was the God of the Pole Star.

    Therefore, we claim the Glyph (circle with centrepoint) of Ra, to have been the ideograph of the Pole Star at the centre of the Circle.

    The G.A.O.T.U. began to build the - "House of Heaven" with the Pole Star for a foundation stone, or rather for the coping stone of the cone, the Benben, "the House of the Mound," when the circle was the enclosure of Am-Khenem.

    The dot in the centre of a circle is equal to the point at the top of the cone that was crowned with the star at the summit.

    In the circle of the Pole Star there were seven gods or glorious ones grouped together in the constellation of the "Little Bear," revolving round the Most High the Great Judge, the All-seeing Eye, who saw by night and who is the figure of Anup in the Planisphere of Denderah.

    The Divine Circle became the sign of Ra in his Zodiacal Circle, but there is no such standpoint for its origin as a Solar Symbol that there is for its having been the star at the centre of the Circumpolar Enclosure. Moreover, the Glyph (circle with point in the middle) is an equivalent for the Eye, and the two are co-types.

    Therefore, it may be inferred that, as the fixes Star at the Centre, it was the Primordial All-seeing Eye in the Astral Mythology. The Polar Star considered as an eye upon the summit of the mountain explains the Chinese name of the "Heaven's Eye Mountain." We find the same in the States of Central America.

    Here we have it demonstrated that the "All-Seeing Eye" and the "Point within the Circle" are identical, and the "All-seeing Eye on the summit of the Mountain and the Point at the Apex of the Cone are one and the same."

    In others of his writings Dr. Churchward states that very early in the Egyptian History "emigrations took place and found their way to India and China, and took their religion with them."

    The triangles or cones are found in the Indian Mythology, both Vishnuand Siva being represented by triangles or cones, the one pointing downwards, the other upwards, corresponding to those of Horns and Sut of the Egyptians.

    Writing again of "the Point within the Circle," He says: "It is one of their hieroglyphics of the Sun-God, Ra; but it is not merely an image of the Solar disc. For one thing, it is a Masonic Symbol, and if H.A. Gyles, the Chinese scholar, who is himself a Mason, tells us it is held to represent the One Supreme Power, whatever that may be, the G.A.O.T.U., recognised alike by ourselves and our Brother Masons of every religious denomination. " - See H.A. Giles "Historical
    China," p.309.

    With the Egyptians, as well as the Brahimins, the "Circle" has always represented the Eternal or Eternity, "the Point within the Circle" the Supreme Being.

    The Egyptians were never Sun-worshippers, even when the Circle represented to them the Sun-God, "Ra;" it was recognised that it was only a Symbol of the Deity behind it - "Ptah." - "The obscurity beyond knowledge," as unknown then as now.

    In is "Symbols and Legends of Freemasonry" Bro. Finlayson says:- "Its circumference, a line which has neither end nor beginning, most clearly represents the great attributes of the Eternal. The point in the centre, called Purm, is the inner essence of Brahm, from which all emanates and around which all revolves."

    One would think that this Symbol, coming from our most ancient source, our Egyptian Brethren, universal in its significance, would occupy a most prominent position in our Lodges; but where do we find it? After, generally, a careful search, we will find it on the Tracing Board, supporting the V.S.L. and the Ladder. As, without doubt, it is the Symbol of the Supreme Being, instead of the ladder resting upon it, the ladder should lead up to it, as it is by the figurative use and the ladder we hope to reach those eternal mansions where we hope to be united with the G.A.O.T.U.

    The greatest factor to my mind in the prosperity of Freemasonry, not even excepting its grand principles, has been its being a "Religion without a Creed." (See extract from "The Freemason.")

    In our Lodges each Brother can worship the Supreme Being, represented by" the point within the circle," in his own name, be it God or Jehovah, Allah, or Brahma, and thus we recognise "The Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man."

    This Symbol, therefore, should be placed in a very conspicuous position where it can be at once seen on entering the Lodge, and on seeing it we recognise that we are met for the worship of the Deity and the mutual assistance of the Brethren.

    I have visited a fairly large number of Lodges in this Dominion, and only in one have I found this Symbol given the prominence which its importance requires. This is Lodge Hawera, where it occupies the front of their altar, and is perhaps the first Symbol which meets the eye on entering the Lodge.

    I feel sure, Wor. Master, that a very little research and consideration on the part of the Brethren would lead them to recognise the claims of "the point within the circle" to the most important position in our Lodges.

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