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Innumerable are the number of pins: lapel, tie, hat, or otherwise, that have been created by and for Freemasons. They have been small, large, funny, serious, simple and intricate. This is the story of the official pin for What is a Mason, produced by Edgar Alejandro of Masonic Revival.
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It is rather typical for the various individuals, clubs, groups, lodges, bodies, events, and more, in Freemasonry to be commemorated with a specialty lapel pin. This pin is the official pin for “What is a Mason?”, the popular YouTube Channel, Podcast and Website committed to spreading the truth about what Freemasonry is across the Internet.
In contemplating the design of such a pin I reached out to my viewers through Facebook, asking them what symbolism would best fit “What is a Mason?”. The results, as you can see below, varied widely, and rightly so. I have indeed expressed my enjoyment of the symbolism of the Beehive, spoke at length about the symbolism I see in the 47th Problem of Euclid, and more. What’s more is that since the channel speaks on the Symbolic Lodge as well as many other appendant bodies and concordant orders – the whole pantheon of Masonic Symbolism seemed to be applicable.
However, one brother, Randy Sanders out of Missouri, provided an interesting suggestion – essentially: Keep it Simple.
This suggestion really resonated with me. After all, even in the highest degrees of Freemasonry the lessons taught are, at their base, a mere emphasis on the lessons of the first three degrees. As such, the pin was designed to be a simple Square and Compasses, recognizable globally in Freemasonry, with a jewel/gem in the center.
This is a GREAT pin to wear to lodge, work, church, or just when out-and-about. It is subdued, almost letting it blend right into your wardrobe. It doesn’t stick out and demand attention, or have such small detail that people need to squint closely to see what it is about, but when someone does notice it and they ask “What is a Mason?”, you can confidently say, “I am”.
But is it really as simple as it looks?
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No hate mail, please. I know (truly, I do) that every man, lodge, or jurisdiction is going to have different interpretations, histories, traditions, or even rules that might fly in the face of the symbolism explained here. That’s okay. Don’t panic. Take what follows as little more than my explanation on why the pin was designed this way. If you disagree with any of the reasons, that’s great! It means you are observing and being contemplative, so it is a win-win.
What is in a name?
While this pin will likely be known as the “What is a Mason?” pin, I, personally, call it Observation, Contemplation & Transformation. Why? Because, at the root, I think that is what Speculative Freemasonry is all about. It also shows that a simple pin can, in fact, demonstrate some very complex concepts. Keeping the pin simple, but the name complex, felt like a good balance – something every Freemason should appreciate.
In a world bereft of costs, the pin would be made of specific materials that would better capture the intent, but alas, symbolism will have to suffice.
The square of a stonemason can be seen depicted in many different forms, and made of various materials, even in operational stone masonry. But we are Speculative Freemasons and as such the square used in this pin is used for the symbolism it embodies.
The square is, without argument, very important in Freemasonry. The square is an angle of 90°, which it hasn’t always been in so many depictions of the square over the ages. To reinforce the correctness of the square, one leg/arm of the square, the handle/tongue, is 3 units in length, while the other, the blade, is 4 units in length – which brings to mind the 3-4-5 Pythagorean Triples, which far predate the 47th Problem of Euclid. I encourage you to measure it – it doesn’t just LOOK right, but really is a 3-4-5 square. By measurement, this square is showing us the way in which to mathematically find a square. You can hear more about the importance of the symbol in this video, where I explained it as a guest on The Masonic Roundtable.
I will leave it to you to contemplate on the numerous ways in which the Square is implemented, demonstrated, alluded to, or taught in Freemasonry.
The square is plated in a grey metal, representing lead, a simple base metal in want of being put to use and improved upon.
The square also symbolizes creation – this planet, yes, but most importantly – YOU.
The compasses plated in gold colored metal, symbolic of the typical metal used to represent the noble metals. While Alchemy itself is not directly taught in any Symbolic Lodge I have had the pleasure of visiting, the act of Transformation most assuredly is. Be it metals being transmuted into something more precious, or the soul leaving the body, or the Divine Spark returning from whence it came, the purpose is the same. I know of no other pin that uses different colors for the square and compasses.
Remember, YOU are the Square and the Compasses. YOU must “Pass from the Square to the Compasses”. As such, imagine these compasses as a mirror image of yourself. This explains why the left leg of the compasses is above the square. Due to regulations within my own jurisdiction, I must leave it to you to comprehend the deeper meanings behind this symbolism. However, it is important for each of us to recognize that while we strive for perfection, we have yet to achieve it, nor will we achieve it in this life. In this way, this configuration demonstrates that the wearer is aware of the necessity of his continual progress.
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The inner edge of the compasses are designed with an arcing edge on each leg that points towards the center of the compasses, because there we find the most excellent tenants of our institution, and the wearer must always bear in mind the moral application of these useful instruments.
The compasses are opened to precisely 47°. Go on, measure it, they REALLY are 47°! This angle represents the combination of the degrees at which we find the Tropic of Cancer and Capricorn on our planet, thanks to the 23.5° tilt of our planet. Each point represents one Tropic, which combined give us 47°, and is also a nice, arguably coincidental, reminder of the 47th Problem of Euclid. In regard to the Tropics, the Blue Lodge Text Book for The Grand Lodge of the State of Mississippi (my home jurisdiction) states: “The parallels are the summer and winter solstices, the sun’s stopping places, which the sun in its apparent yearly journeys north and south never passes nor goes beyond. They symbolize the lines of moral rectitude.”
What, you can’t see the level on the pin? The points of the compasses and the angle of the square on “on the level”, a phrase all Freemasons are familiar with. On this pin it symbolizes the equilibrium between the compasses and the square, which work together, on the level. With three points of contact this configuration of the Square and Compasses can find a level, circumscribe, and square. Again, this level of detail and purpose is something typically not found in Masonic pins!
Many Freemasons may ask, where is the “G”? A proper understanding of the Square and Compasses will inform you that the “G”, as a part of this emblem, is redundant. Geometry, Deity, Gnosis, or any other interpretation of “G” (dependent on your jurisdiction and personal understanding) is already present. (Freemasons who expect to see only the “G” within this emblem should note that while that emblem may be “standard”, the “G” is replaced in other depictions that you consistently use in lodge, such as with a crescent moon, a sun, the 47th Problem of Euclid, and others, including being completely absent. Therefore, please note that this emblem is just that – another emblem, and not the “removal” of the “G”) As such, I leave the use of the Gem open to your own personal interpretation. I equally like the concept of it representing light, with a clear or white gem, or transmutation, with a red gem to represent the Philosopher’s Stone. (Other colors potentially coming soon!) Perhaps you would prefer blue for the Symbolic Lodge or the heavens, or another color for your birthstone, for your lodge “colors”, or simply to represent your personal favorite color. In general, it adds an air of distinction, allowing the pin to operate as a piece of jewelry, suitable for lodge, office, or casual wear.
The Black Field
Practically, it provides a stunning background for the gem and allows this “fill” to blend into any dark colored clothing, such as the lapel of a black suit. However, along with the gem description above, it alludes to going “…from Darkness to Light”.
On the back is the imprinting “WiaM”, simply standing for “What is a Mason”.
I, personally, despise “butterfly” type pin backs/clasps. They always seem to come loose! My pin uses a locking pin back, so you need not worry about your pin ever coming loose or falling off! Looking to upgrade your backs for your other pins? I use and recommend these: Locking Pin Backs, also available in Gold Colored Locking Pin Backs.