Past Master's Symbol



The Compass, Square, Sun, and Quadrant


The oldest known Past Master's Symbol consists of the Compass, Sun, Square and Quadrant.  This is the most popular Past Master's Jewel used in the United States.  The earliest written evidence that a Past Master's jewel in this form was used can be found in an exposť of Masonry published in April of 1760 entitled Three Distinct Knocks which said , "The Pass Master Hath the Compasses and Sun with a Line of Cords About his Neck."

This symbol includes the Square to remind us that it is by the Square that the wearer governed his lodge as Master. The Quadrant shows what angle the Compass is opened at.  This is appropriate for the symbol of a Past Master because it is by the Compass that the Freemason keeps himself within due bounds of all mankind.  And it is the role of the Worshipful Master to ensure that all members of his lodge, and all Regular Masons living within his lodge's jurisdiction, are making proper use of their moral compass.  It also generally shows that the Compass is opened to the angle of 60 degrees.  This is significant because 60 degrees is the angle of an equilateral triangle.  The equilateral triangle represents perfect balance, as all sides are of equal length, and the triangle appears the same from all directions.  It therefore teaches that the man who wears this jewel has learned the lessons of Freemasonry and lives a balanced life.  It also shows that the wearer of this jewel has served equally in the South, the West, and the East.

The Sun is used in this symbol to represent that the wearer has observed the sun at 1) its meridian height in the South, 2) its setting in the West and 3) its rising in the East.  The Sun also represents light and it is understood that the Past Master of a Craft Lodge is a source of Masonic Light to his brothers.  It closely shares the meaning of the Pentalpha in Masonic symbolism and has on occasion been interchanged with it. Thus, it is also appropriate to say that the Sun represents perfect light. vi

It is of interest to note that the Grand Lodge of Scotland uses this symbol as their Past Master's Jewel without the Sun.

The Compass, Sun and Quadrant

In several jurisdictions, especially in the United States, the Past Master's Symbol consists of the Compass, Sun and Quadrant.  The meaning of the Compass and Sun are the same as in the symbol described above. However, this symbol is unique as it can also be understood to be a sextant.

A sextant is a tool of navigation used to measure altitude and enable one to determine his location and thus plot a course to travel.  This is a very appropriate symbol for a Past Master as he has had to navigate the course of his lodge during his Eastern tenure. It also shows that he is capable of assisting in the navigation of the lodge, if his successors may request his assistance.