The Three Great Lights of Masonry
The Three Great Lights of Masonry are the Holy Bible, Square and Compass. The Volume of the Sacred Law (no matter what religion) is an indispensable part of a Lodge. The Grand Lodges of the United States use the Holy Bible as the V.S.L. on their Altars. In our jurisdiction, a candidate may request to have his own sacred book present on the Altar with the Bible during his degree ceremonies.
In Lodges in other countries, other sacred texts are placed on the Altar in place of the Holy
Bible, but no Lodge in California may stand officially open, unless the Holy Bible is opened
upon its Altar with the Square and Compass displayed thereon. The open Bible signifies that we should regulate our conduct according to its teachings because it is the rule and guide of our faith and is a symbol of man’s acknowledgment of
his relation to Deity.
The Square is a symbol of morality, truthfulness, and honesty. To “act on the square” is to act honestly. The Compass signifies the propitious use of action and is a symbol of restraint, skill, and knowledge. We might also properly regard the Compass as excluding beyond its circle that which is harmful or unworthy. The Square and Compass are recognized by the general public, as the symbol of Freemasonry.
The symbolism of the square and compass is seen in many ancient carvings and artwork. A
stonecutter’s square has been seen to represent the earth, while the compass has related to the arc of heaven. Thus, their union has represented the union of heaven and earth. The Volume of Sacred Law can also represent God’s communication to man through scripture and inspired writings. The triple symbol can also be seen as representing God’s expression through the creation of heaven and earth.
The Three Great Lights are also consistent with the three-tier system of Blue Lodge Masonry. One way of interpreting the triple symbolism is seeing human nature as divided into three parts – body, mind, and soul with a “Degree” for each part. In the same way, the Three Great Lights are the guiding principles of the three natures: the Square to the body, the Compass to the mind, and the Volume of Sacred Law for the soul.