This article explores the history of the point within a circle, a symbol of great significance in Masonic ritual with origins that predate speculative Freemasonry.
Derived from the operative stonemasons of old, the practices and lessons of Freemasonry are founded upon the principles of geometry. Its teachings sculpt Masons into better men, guided by the three central values of Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth. As any Mason knows, getting to the heart of Masonry’s philosophies and ethical teachings requires ongoing study and practice. Veiled in allegory, extracting these teachings’ wisdom requires a thorough understanding of Masonic rituals’ many symbols. One such symbol Masons encounter frequently is the point within a circle.
In Masonic Ritual
In recent history, Freemasonry has adopted its interpretation of this image, with the point in the center of the circle representing the individual man or Mason. The circle represents the line between our passions, vices, prejudices, and those around us. As Masons, we work each day to prevent our selfish interests from passing beyond the circle and infringing on our duty to our God and fellow man. The two perpendicular parallel lines represent the patron saints of Freemasonry: Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist. Explore more on the Holy Saints’ John in another blog.
Similarly, another interpretation describes teaches that the circle represents the boundary line of the Mason’s duty to God and his brethren. Residing within the circle, it is a reminder that we should maintain decency and goodwill towards our Brothers and fellow humans as we strive to live up to the ideals of Freemasonry.
Still, another interpretation by Masons is that the point in the circle refers to the circumambulation a new initiate is required to make about the sacred Altar in the lodge room while the Brethren stand in two parallel lines. One of the familiar depictions of the symbol includes a “B” on the left side of the left vertical line for John the Baptist, an “E” on the outer right side of the right line, and the Volume of Sacred Law above the circle.
As with many Masonic symbols, it is unknown when or where the point within the circle first originated. Over the ages, there have been alternate depictions, and it has held many meanings that are different from its significance in modern Masonry. For example, we know of a variation carved on Ancient Egyptian monuments. In these instances, the Alpha and Omega, or the symbol of God, shows the circle flanked by two perpendicular snakes rather than the straight lines we see in modern Masonry.
While the first instances of this symbol may not be known, we can be sure the point within a circle did not originate in 1717 when the first Grand Lodge was established in England. Regardless, as interpreted in contemporary speculative Masonry, it holds significant meaning to Masons across the globe. It serves as a reminder to live a life guided by our brotherhood’s morals so that we may become better men having a positive influence on our communities and those closest to us.
What does the symbolism and meaning behind the point within a circle mean to you on your journey through Freemasonry? Tell us by either emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org or finding us on Facebook or Twitter.