The Three Principal Officers of a lodge are, it is needless to say, situated in the east, the west, and the south. Now, bearing in mind that the lodge is a symbol of the world, or the universe, the reference of these three officers to the sun at its rising, its setting, and its meridian height, must at once suggest itself.
This is the first development of the symbol, and a very brief inquiry will furnish ample evidence of its antiquity and its universality.
In the Brahminical initiations of Hindostan, which are among the earliest that have been transmitted to us, and may almost be considered as the cradle of all the others of subsequent ages and various countries, the ceremonies were performed in vast caverns, the remains of some of which, at Salsette, Elephanta, and a few other places, will give the spectator but a very inadequate idea of the extent and splendor of these ancient Indian lodges. More imperfect remains than these are still to be found in great numbers throughout Hindostan and Cashmere. Their form was sometimes that of a cross, emblematic of the four elements of which the earth is composed,–fire, water, air, and earth,–but more generally an oval, as a representation of the mundane egg, which, in the ancient systems, was a symbol of the world.
The interior of the cavern of initiation was lighted by innumerable lamps, and there sat in the east, the west, and the south the principal Hierophants, or explainers of the Mysteries, as the representatives of Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva. Now, Brahma was the supreme deity of the Hindoos, borrowed or derived from the Sun-god of their Sabean ancestors, and Vishnu and Siva were but manifestations of his attributes. We learn from the Indian Pantheon that “when the sun rises in the east, he is Brahma; when he gains his meridian in the south, he is Siva; and when he sets in the west, he is Vishnu.”
Again, in the Zoroasteric mysteries of Persia, the temple of initiation was circular, being made so to represent the universe; and the sun in the east, with the surrounding zodiac, formed an indispensable part of the ceremony of reception.
In the Egyptian mysteries of Osiris, the same reference to the sun is contained, and Herodotus, who was himself an initiate, intimates that the ceremonies consisted in the representation of a Sun-god, who had been incarnate, that is, had appeared upon earth, or rose, and who was at length put to death by Typhon, the symbol of darkness, typical of the sun’s setting.
In the great mysteries of Eleusis, which were celebrated at Athens, we learn from St. Chrysostom, as well as other authorities, that the temple of initiation was symbolic of the universe, and we know that one of the officers represented the sun.
In the Celtic mysteries of the Druids, the temple of initiation was either oval, to represent the mundane egg–a symbol, as has already been said, of the world; or circular, because the circle was a symbol of the universe; or cruciform, in allusion to the four elements, or constituents of the universe. In the Island of Lewis, in Scotland, there is one combining the cruciform and circular form. There is a circle, consisting of twelve stones, while three more are placed in the east, and as many in the west and south, and thirty-eight, in two parallel lines, in the north, forming an avenue to the circular temple. In the centre of the circle is the image of the god. In the initiations into these rites, the solar deity performed an important part, and the celebrations commenced at daybreak, when the sun was hailed on his appearance above the horizon as “the god of victory, the king who rises in light and ascends the sky.”
But I need not multiply these instances of sun-worship. Every country and religion of the ancient world would afford one. Sufficient has been cited to show the complete coincidence, in reference to the sun, between the symbolism of Freemasonry and that of the ancient rites and Mysteries, and to suggest for them a common origin, the sun being always in the former system, from the earliest times of the primitive or patriarchal Masonry, considered simply as a manifestation of the Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty of the Divine Architect, visibly represented by the position of the three principal officers of a lodge, while by the latter, in their degeneration from, and corruption of the true Noachic faith, it was adopted as the special object of adoration.