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of tragedy, and still more by the Divine help the divine in him has subjugated the earthly, and he
stands forth strong, free, and fearless, ready to raise stone upon stone until naught is wanting. If
we examine with care the relative positions of the Square and Compasses as he advanced through
the Degrees, we learn a parable and a prophecy of what the Compasses mean in the life of a Mason.

Here too, we learn what the old philosopher of China meant when he urged Officers of the
Government to “apply the Compasses, since only men who have mastered themselves can really
lead or rule others. Let us now study the Compasses apart from the Square, and try to discover
what they have to teach us. There is no more practical lesson in Masonry and it behooves us to
learn it and lay it to heart. As the Light of the Holy Bible reveals our relation and duty to God, and
the Square instructs us in our duties to our Brother and neighbor, so the Compasses teach us the
obligation which we owe ourselves. What that obligation is needs to be made plain; it is the
primary, imperative, everyday duty of circumscribing his passions, and keeping his desires within
due bounds. As Most Excellent King Solomon said long ago: “Better is he that ruleth his spirit
than he that taketh a city.”

In short, it is the old triad, without which character loses its symmetry, and life may easily end in
chaos and confusion. It has been put in many ways, but never better than in the three great words;
self-knowledge, self-reverence, self-control; and we cannot lose any one of the three and keep the
other two. To know ourselves, our strength, our weakness, our limitations, is the first principle of
wisdom, and a security against many a pitfall and blunder. Lacking such knowledge, or
disregarding it, a man goes too far, loses control of himself, and by that very fact loses, in some
measure, the self-respect which is the corner stone of a character. If he loses respect for himself,
he does not long keep his respect for others, and goes down the road to destruction, like a star out
of orbit, or a car into the ditch.

The old Greeks put the same truth into a trinity of maximums: “Know thyself; in nothing too much;
think as a mortal; and it made them masters of the art of life and the life of art. Hence their wise
Doctrine of the Limit, as a basic idea both of life and of thought, and their worship of the God of
bounds, of which the Compasses are a symbol. It is the wonder of our human life that we belong
to the limited and to the unlimited. Hemmed in, hedged about, restricted, we long for a liberty
without rule or limit. Yet limitless liberty is anarchy and slavery. As in the great word of Burke,
“It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that a man of intemperate passions cannot be
free; his passions forge their fetters.” Liberty rests upon law. The wise man is he who takes full
account of both, who knows how, at all points, to qualify the one by the other, as the Compasses,
if he uses them aright, will teach him how to do.

Much of our life is ruled for us whether we will or not. The laws of nature throw about us their
restraining bands, and there is no place where their wit does not run. The laws of the land make us
aware that our liberty is limited by the equal rights and liberties of others. Our neighbors, too, if
we fail to act toward him squarely may be trusted to look after his own rights. Custom, habit, and
the pressure of public opinion are impalpable forces which we dare not altogether defy. These are
so many roads from which our passions and appetites stray at our peril. But there are other regions
of life where personality has free play, and they are the places where most of our joy and sorrow
lie. It is in the realm of desire, emotion, motive, in the inner life where we are freest, and most
alone, that we need a wise and faithful use of the Compasses.

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