A New Masonic Interpretation of Euclid's 47th Problem, by Bro. Jeff Peace
The 47th Problem of Euclid has always been of great importance to speculative Freemasons. It is so important that it appears on the frontispiece of Anderson’s Constitution of 1723. The engraving shows two Grand Masters looking down at a drawing of the 47th Problem on the floor of a great hall. Hermes flies above them in a chariot. It is the Past Master’s Jewel in many jurisdictions and it is a symbol in the Master’s Degree.
Many Masons have speculated that this symbol has an obvious interpretation, but if Freemasonry has taught me anything it is to look past the obvious for something hidden within. Long ago, while studying the earliest known rituals I discovered that the candidate was often referred to as "Peter Gower," or more correctly Pythagoras. This made me ask a question about the 47th Problem of Euclid. Why didn’t the early brothers refer to this by its more popular name: the Pythagorean Theorem? It's clear from the ritual that they knew who Pythagoras was, so why not refer to his most important discovery by using his name?
Ultimately, the mystery revolves around Euclid. Who is the Euclid the ritual is referring to? Could there be another Euclid who had a different 47th Problem that would be more relevant to the early speculative Freemasons? After much research I discovered another 47th Problem of "Euclid" that many modern Masons may find of interest.
"PROP. XLVII. The human mind has an adequate knowledge of the eternal and infinite essence of God."
Could this be what the Masonic symbol conceals?
When you consider that the early speculative Freemasons considered Freemasonry to be "a peculiar system of morality veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols," it seems logical to conclude that hidden somewhere within the Masonic system lay hidden a system of morality that was peculiar (unique).
Slightly before speculative Freemasonry appeared on the scene a famous philosopher wrote a book of ethics (morality) that was truly peculiar (unique), it was so unique that he was labeled a heretic and copies of his book were burned. His book was peculiar in more ways than just his ideas, it was written in the same format as Euclid’s "Book of Elements," it was a moral philosophy based on the logical format of Geometry.
The book is entitled simply "Ethics," and its author is Benedict Spinoza. Could it be that in this book we have the peculiar system of morality referred to by the founders of speculative Freemasonry?
— Bro. Jeff Peace, Rite of the Rose Cross of Gold
Freemasonry | Masons | 47th Problem | 47th Proposition | Euclid | Pythagorus | Pythagorean Theorem | Spinoza | Ethics