How to Decipher Freemasonry's Major Symbolism
The number three: Everywhere you look in a Masonic lodge and among its rituals, you come across the number three. There are three degrees, three principal officers, three candles, three primary orders of architecture — the list goes on and on.
Because Freemasonry was an outgrowth of Catholic, and later, Protestant beliefs, the imagery of the Holy Trinity were very strong. The number three became a symbol of the ongoing search for perfection.
Tracing boards: Freemasons hung cloths on easels, on which they painted symbols to convey lessons (because of the strict rule against writing down the ritual in any manner that could be deciphered by non-Masons, or profanes).
These days, the tracing boards have largely been replaced by slide shows or PowerPoint presentations of the symbols, but the purpose is the same: It helps the lecturer remember what comes next, and it helps the candidate associate an image with an idea.
Solomon’s Temple: The temple is a symbol for the individual Mason. The goal of the builders is perfection of workmanship.
When the Hebrews lost their spiritual direction, the temple was destroyed, just as men are destroyed when they lose their spiritual direction. And even when it has disappeared, the memory of it lives on in the hearts and memories of all who had seen it, just as the accomplishments of good men live on long after they have died.
Square and compass: In Masonic ritual, speculative Freemasons use the square as an instrument of virtue to govern all their actions with mankind. The compass has a slightly more obscure ritualistic explanation.
When you use a compass to draw a circle, one point remains in the center of the circle. That point represents the individual Freemason. The circle represents the boundaries of his world and the people he comes into contact with. He is to always live by the principles of friendship, morality, and brotherly love.