Robert L.D. Cooper  Author, Historian, Freemason.

Monthly Question

December 7th, 2022 by Robert Cooper

road-signs.jpgA friend has requested that I answer some questions on a monthly basis. I suspect that she is frustrated by the fact that she cannot always, well hardly ever, get hold of me to ask questions that are important (to her). Her idea is therefore that she sends me a question which I shall post here and then answer it so that she, and you, can see it without having to even try and contact me! Well good luck with that…

The idea is good so far as it goes but, I am going to build in an ‘escape hatch’ that will give me some ‘wriggle room.’ I shall post his/her questions here monthly but then answer them during the course following month. This ought to allow me time to research the more difficult and obscure questions that I know she intends to send! That said the first question is benign. And that means I can answer it almost right away!

Whilst I am in no way soliciting questions you are welcome to send any of your questions regarding Freemasonry, especially Scottish Freemasonry, to me (via the Contact page only please) but please do not expect a personal reply. If at all possible I shall post your query here together with an answer.

The first question from my friend (who is not a Freemason BTW) is: ‘The Freemasons seem to have lots of weird signs and symbols. What are they for and what purpose do they serve?’

Answer: First and foremost it is important to differentiate between signs and symbols. Signs are intended to impart some specific knowledge, present definite information or give instructions. Road signs are a good example of this – Road Works Ahead (see image) is a warning SIGN. It is not a symbol. Some road signs are instructions such as STOP. The meaning of the sign is obvious. It means something very specific. Signs are therefore clear and are intended only to impart a particular piece of information. Symbols are different from signs because they can also be signs. Signs cannot be symbols. For example a cross (†) is often placed outside a particular building to indicate that it is a place of worship and, more precisely, a place of Christian worship – usually a church. However, this sign is also a symbol because to Christians it means the Passion Cross – a symbol for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Symbols can therefore, have multiple meanings whereas a sign has only one purpose or meaning. Using the example of the Christian Passion Cross: it, like many symbols, has several meanings. Not only does it suggest Christ, a Christian, a Christian place of worship (a church) it also suggests more esoteric interpretations such as the mystery of the Son of God, his birth, life, mission, Passion and resurrection.

Freemasonry has very few signs but it has a huge number of symbols. Masonic symbols are used to explain certain aspects of the Craft and are therefore, the ‘private language’ of Freemasonry (the Craft). If one wishes to learn Spanish, although having no knowledge of that language, it is quite possible to do so without going to Spain or becoming a Spainish citizen. The private language of Freemasonry is different. In the first place, Masonic symbolism is, and can only be, interpreted in a Masonic setting. The exception is where a symbol might be used in public to let people know where there is a Masonic meeting place. This is fairly common in some countries such as the USA but is much less common in Scotland and other parts of Europe.

Please use the contact form at: to ask a question but please be aware that my time is limited and it will not be possible for every question to be answered.

The next question will follow soon and will try to answer it as quickly as this but no promises!

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