Masonic symbolism is of two kinds, direct and allusive. The trowel belongs to the first class, because naturally an indispensable instrument of the building art for which an explanation would have to be contrived in any case, in a system based upon architecture. The shape of the trowel, however, is distinctive, its blade being of a specialized form, different from any other known tool.
With this shape in mind, examine the outline of the space between square and compasses, usually filled in with the letter G, and it will become apparent that the point of the trowel is an angle of 60 degrees, while its base is one of 90 degrees, in which the handle is set . The moment that this proportion is recognized the outline of the trowel becomes the geometrical basis of the emblematic square and compasses themselves, and the line between the extreme points has the value of the letter Jod, the initial of the name of God in Hebrew. As Jod represents Spirit acting upon Matter, causing its inchoate particles to cohere in shapely proportions, so the trowel is the instrument employed by master masons to unite fragmentary building material upon symmetrical and orderly plans.
The rescripts ordering the compasses to be open at an angle of 60 degrees, and defining the square as an angle of 90 degrees, are, like countless other Masonic allusions, references to geometrical formulas, well known to our ancient brethren, which have become lost to the craft of today.
A representation of the trowel appears as one of a set of masons’ tools displayed on a bronze plate set in the masonry of an ancient building of Thebes, Egypt.
Bactrian Coin of B. C. 180, showing a hierophant of the ltasf adorins the Creator under the symbol of an operative Mason’s square. The emblem behind him is a Sanskrit monogram of letters, the initials of earth, airt tire, water, ether, and mind. In the sacred language of lndia.