Why did Freemasons choose certain symbols?

by Michelle Glynn
(San Birdino, California)

1.) Why did the Freemasons choose certain symbols?

2.) How did they come up with the symbols they have?

3.) What was their reason for choosing them?

4.) Do different symbols go with different "groups" of the Freemasons, and if so why?

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Jan 26, 2015
Fair questions
by: Lant

Freemasonry's history is pretty certain back to the early 1700; beyond that it gets pretty murky. That's not us trying to hid anything, we really aren't sure ourselves.

The most likely story, IMO, is that we originated from the old stone-masons' groups or lodges, much like medieval guilds. There'd been a 400-year-long building boom in cathedrals and such, but it started to end in the 1500s, leaving the lodges hurting. If they could have attracted outsiders to join, it would've provided them members, money and influence. Eventually, the stone-workers faded away and the speculative or honourary masons who were left became Freemasons, men concentrating on spcial interaction and a philosophy of morality. A Verrry abbreviated telling, of course.

So - a bag of tools. How did they come to be associated with moral lessons? That's a good question, but not one for which we have a clear answer. Some of them are pretty obvious, such as a level indicating the equality of all men before God. Some are far more esoteric. In any case, symbolism is very useful to us.

Part of the process was adapting the old operative masons' rules of conduct. Symbolism was very important to a population mainly comprised of illiterates. Symbols were actually a part of daily life and making use of symbols derived from stone-working tools made sense. Those symbols and their meanings became an important part of Freemasonry.

Are some symbols used more often in different branches of Masonry? Yes, certainly. Some of it is due to different branches having different philosophical emphases and some of it is due to local interpretations.

Hope that helps.

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