Why are the square and compasses sometimes seen without the letter "G"?
The letter "G" is a well-known symbol of Freemasonry, though not a very old one. The time of its adoption is unknown, but it was probably not much before the middle of the 18th century. The use of the letter "G" is not derived from the ancient constitutions and charges of the Medieval Freemasons. It is not mentioned in any of the early exposes of ritual prior to Samuel Prichard's Masonry Dissected of 1730, and even there its significance is not fully developed.
It will surprise some to know that it was not until about 1850 that the letter "G" was placed in the center of the interlaced square and compasses for pins and badges as commonly represented today, and that is supposed to have originated as a jeweler's design and not by action of any Masonic authority.
(Source: Coil's Masonic Encyclopedia, 1995) [Editor's note: It will be interesting to many Pennsylvania Freemasons that the Grand Lodge Masonic Temple, completed in 1873, has a square and compasses in the stonework over the rear entrance without a letter "G".]
Why are there different chronological systems used in Freemasonry?
Today, Masonic chronology is rarely used unaccompanied by the date calculated according to the current system in common use (the Gregorian calendar). Masonic datings are symbolic only and their origins and meanings are probably unfamiliar to many Freemasons.
In the Craft Rite, the calendar runs from the year 4000 B.C., the year in which it was once believed the world was created. This was called the Year of Light (Anno Lucis) so that the year 2002 A.D. becomes 6002 A.L.
Royal Arch Masons date from the commencement of the Second Temple 530 B.C., so that 2002 A.D. becomes 2532 A. Inv. (Anno Inventionis or the Year of the Discovery).
Royal and Select Masters date from the Year of Deposit (Anno Depositionis), that is the completion of Solomon's Temple, 1000 B.C. Therefore, 2002 A.D. becomes 3002 A. Dep.
Knights Templar date from the founding of the Medieval Order of the Temple in 1118 A.D. Therefore, they deduct 1118 from the present era and 2002 A.D. becomes 884 A.O. (Anno Ordinis).
In the Scottish Rite, the calendar runs from the creation of the world (Anno Mundi) and is the same as the Jewish chronology (Anno Hebraico) with the year beginning in mid-September. Accordingly, 2002 A.D. up to mid September is 3759 B.C. plus 2002 or 5761 A.M. and from mid-September on is 3760 B.C. plus 2002 or 5762 A.M.
According to modern science, the creation of the Earth may have been anywhere from 50 to 500 million years ago.
(Source: Coil's Masonic Encyclopedia, 1995)