I have not had the pleasure of assisting the Craft from the East as of yet. I look forward with excitement and dread to the day that I can. The honors and lessons, the esteem and humility, I can not wait for that day. Until then, I will have to satisfy myself that I am Virtually a Past Master in light of that degree extended to me by the Capitular Chapters which care for the Royal Arch degree. I am studying the degrees for proficiency, and unfortunately the Past Master’s degree is mostly secret material. I highly recommend studying this degree if you are in the York Rite.
What is not absolutely secret is the symbol of a Past Master, which we have all seen: The compasses and that quarter circle? Bent 24 inch gauge? Rounded Square? It’s difficult to determine for those less acquainted with math, but it is a quadrant. It is 1/4 of a circle.
The square and Compasses have been used in Geometry for centuries, we can make an assortment of shapes, for art, architecture, speculative math. We learn that truth early on in our masonic career, and that info is available online with a quick google search for “Masonic symbol with a G in the middle”. What is less touched on are the Quadrant and Compasses.
The Quadrant is used in Calculus, an advanced form of geometry, which determines curvature of assorted objects, like the earth. Sailors utilize the quadrant for navigation, in conjunction with the sun, which is conveniently always located between the quadrant and compasses. It is, after all, the duty of the Master of a lodge to navigate his lodge through the sea of life, to lands where treasures of hope and brotherhood thrive. It is a symbol of the Past Master’s advanced knowledge of the Craft, his ability to foresee the curvature of lodge actions, and guide the lodge back on course after a great storm. Like Christopher Columbus, who used a quadrant to guide his men across the Atlantic Ocean to greater prospects. Twice.