How to square your square


How to square your square

By Bryan Godwin

When thinking of early triumphs of architecture, the builders of ancient Egypt often draw our minds. Just how did this ancient society build what still amounts to some of the largest and most impressive monuments on Earth?

While many aspects of Egyptian archeology are still a matter of speculation and theory, we do know that nearly all buildings started with the creation of a square. The creation of mathematically exact right angles and perpendiculars was, at the time, somewhere between magic, religion and geometry. The creation of a square was often the first step of any construction, and for temples and houses of royalty, it took the form of a religious ceremony.

The Egyptians even had a word for the men who held the magic of right angles; the “harpedonaptai”, which translates into “rope stretchers.” These operative builders had the understanding of what would come to be known as the “Pythagorean Theorem” long before the time of Pythagoras. It is likely that Pythagoras, who was known to have traveled and been educated in Egypt, might have first pondered his famous mathematical problem, while in that part of the world.

The harpedonaptai used ropes, tied or marked at thirteen regular intervals, creating twelve equal parts. These ropes would first be staked on one end, and then a second stake was inserted at the fourth knot. [sp] This left two free ends, one three total parts long, one five total parts long. With these ends the harpedonatae scribed two semi-circles. When the point where these two met, was connected to the first peg three parts from the end of the rope, a perfect right angle, or square, resulted. The axis of the initial leg of the triangle was often oriented to point due east, in honor of the Sun. Consequently, on having the first leg oriented due east, the corner vertex would be the intersection of north and east. The tradition of a cornerstone being laid in the north-east corner of a building, likely stems from this practice.

The masonic square is one of the most recognizable symbols of our fraternity. It is an emblem of the Master of our lodges, and reminder to be true and virtuous. The ancient Greek name of the square was gnomon, from which comes the English word knowledge. The Greek letter gamma is drawn like a square standing on one leg, the other pointing to the right, and is possibly derived from the square. Gnomon, in turn, derived from the square, which the philosophers knew was at the root of their mathematics.

As the new year is upon us, perhaps we should look back to the ancient builders and their ability to prove their squares through seemingly simple techniques, such as stretched ropes, and apply the same metaphor to ourselves. It is not just the process of chipping away at rough and superfluous edges that perfects a stone, for without aid of a true square we would not know if we are on the right path. By refreshing our minds with the obligations we have taken, our rituals and tools, we can walk more uprightly and keep square our personal angle on truth and morality.

The Purposes, Principle and Practices of Observant Freemasonry


Observant Freemasonry

Brethren:  On Sunday, February 11, 2018 at noon, Culver City-Foshay 467 will begin its Esoterica Study Group program for 2018 with a talk by Brother Jeriel Smith on the often-misunderstood topic of “Traditional Observance” entitled The Purposes, Principle and Practices of Observant Freemasonry. As a member of three such Blue Lodges, Master of the Southern California Research Lodge, and regular attender of the annual gatherings of the Masonic Restoration Foundation, Brother Smith is well qualified to explain the essentials of the growing movement to restore the best traditions of Freemasonry through the pursuit of excellence in all aspects of our Craft. The talk is open to all, Masons and non-Masons alike.