In Freemasonry, three is an important number that comes up a lot. There are three degrees, there are three principle officers, and there are Three Great Lights of Freemasonry which is what I want to talk about today.
The Three Great Lights of Freemasonry are the:– Volume of the Sacred Law (VSL)
The Three Great Lights of Freemasonry are considered the “furniture” of the lodge and what that means is that no lodge meeting can come to order without them being present and there is good reason for that because each teaches an important and valuable lesson.
The VSL is referred to as the Rule and Guide of Faith. This is considered the greatest light of all three for it guides us on our spiritual path. In most lodges in the USA, the VSL is the Holy Bible although the altar where the VSL, square, and compasses are contained usually have other sacred texts to other religions as well including the Torah and the Quran.
The reason that all these texts of faith can be side to side on one altar is that Freemasonry respects everyone’s religion. It does not place on religion above the other, it simply offers a place where members of various religions can come together and socialize without fear of reproof.
At a standard lodge meeting all the VSL are placed on the altar so that members in attendance can gather and hold dear the one that they claim as theirs close to their heart.
Another way to look at the First and Greatest Light in Freemasonry is that it is a source of light. Freemasonry’s goal is to bring light to the candidate and the best way to illuminate one’s spirit is through the light that comes through the teachings of one man’s VSL.
Due to having the VSLs on the altar some have said that Freemasonry is a religion. This could not be further from the truth. Freemasonry is a religious order much as some colleges and hospitals are named after religious organizations.
The Square is an instrument made use of my operative Masons to square their work, but as a Freemason it is taught to regard the Square as an instrument that teaches virtue. Virtue is defined as having high morality, therefore Freemasons are instructed to walk uprightly by the square of virtue, squaring are actions as such.
When a Brother Freemason has something he wants to tell another Brother in secret, he will usually state that the discussion is “on the square”. This just means its between the two of them.
The Square is the jewel that the Master of the Lodge wears as it represents his duty to constantly monitor the activities of the lodge to make sure everything is “on the square”
The compasses is an instrument used by operative Masons to create circles. Freemasons use the compasses to circumbscribe and keep themselves within due bounds with all mankind but more especially the brethren in Freemasonry.
If you think of a Circle, it has a point in the middle that the radius of the circle extends from. This point represents the Freemason and the radius from the point to the edge of the circle represents the duties to God, family, and neighbor. Also when thinking of circumscribing themselves, it can allude to keeping desires within limits and not letting anything overtake them.
When you take the Square and Compasses and use them together to create a square and circle, it can then be used to create a mystical object. Similar to squaring the circle which is where geomotrists create a shape where both square and circle have the same area, this image can represent the spirit of man contained within the physical body.
The circle represents the spiritual because it is an infinite shape with no ending alluding to the infinite nature of the spirit. The square represents the physical because it alludes to the four seasons, four physical directions, four physical elements, etc all which are physical attributes of earth.
Combining the two therefore represents man’s makeup containing both a physical and spiritual counterpart. Another meaning could be gained would be that of earth and heaven, where the square represents the earth and the circle the heavens. Some religions use this to represent the coming together of the heavens and the earth together one day.
The Three Great Lights of Freemasonry are an important piece to Freemasonry. They represent man’s greatest parts of himself in obtaining more light; the physical and the spiritual. For both Freemason or Non-Freemason alike, the Three Great Lights of Freemasonry can shed light on what’s important in a persons life and offer guidance and direction and this is why I believe they are the greatest of the teachings that Freemasonry has to offer.