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In Freemasonry, the sun symbolizes a Brother’s quest for truth and enlightenment amidst the complexities of life. It also symbolizes light, signifying our relentless pursuit of knowledge and self-improvement.

Freemasonry's teachings embody compassion, honesty, and courtesy, passed through generations of men seeking wisdom and enlightenment. Rooted in allegory and symbolism, these teachings reflect a profound commitment to moral virtue and personal growth. While many symbols, such as the square and compasses, evoke the craft of stonemasonry, others draw inspiration from the natural world, and few are more prevalent in Masonic ritual than the sun.

As one might imagine, the sun has been revered for its life-giving since the dawn of time. It provides warmth, sustenance, and energy necessary for crop growth and the survival of living organisms. Cultures across the globe have developed agricultural calendars based on the sun's movements, marking the cycles of planting, harvesting, and seasons.

Symbolically, the sun has been associated with truth and cosmic order and is worshipped by many cultures as a deity or a manifestation of divine forces. The ancient Egyptians worshiped the sun god Ra as their supreme deity and creator of the universe. In Hinduism, the sun is personified as Surya, a god who illuminates the world and bestows life-giving energy, symbolizing renewal, rebirth, spiritual awakening, and the cyclical nature of life, death, and regeneration.

Tracing Board depicting the twin pillars, the sun, and eye of providence.
Tracing Board from the Entered Apprentice degree depicting Masonic imagery including the sun. Photo by David Bohl. Courtesy of SRMML

In our fraternity, its significance is multifaceted, but it starts with illuminating the path of the potential Freemason on his quest for truth and enlightenment amidst the complexities of life. We embrace the sun as a symbol of light that guides us in our pursuit of knowledge and self-improvement. With a long and storied history, there is no single definition of its meaning, but instead, all its applications can equally inspire Masons as they push ever deeper into their journey towards more light.

Eastward Orientation & Degree Work

Most Brothers first encounter the sun as a ritualistic emblem during the opening and closing ceremonies of a Masonic lodge, which reflects its significance as a source of light, wisdom, and divine guidance. In the lodge, The Worshipful Master's station is situated in the east of the lodge room, symbolizing the rising sun, the beginning of a new day, and the dawn of enlightenment.

As the Worshipful Master presides over the lodge, he metaphorically guides Brethren from darkness towards the light of knowledge and moral virtue. At the conclusion of a lodge meeting, the Worshipful Master leads Brothers in a closing ceremony, bidding farewell until the next meeting. In this ceremony, the sun may again be invoked as a symbol of divine blessing and protection, guiding Brothers on their respective journeys until they meet again in fellowship.

The Cycle and Divine Spark

Throughout Freemasonry's history, the sun has also symbolized the divine spark, the connection between every man and his creator, and the inherent potential for spiritual awakening and transcendence. In Masonic philosophy, the potential Freemason’s journey mirrors the passage of the sun across the sky – a cycle of death and rebirth, darkness and illumination are mirrored in the rituals of initiation, where candidates undergo symbolic rebirth, emerging enlightened and transformed.

Through diligent study, introspection, and moral rectitude, Freemasons strive to awaken the latent divinity within themselves and ascend toward the metaphorical "heights of spiritual perfection."

The sun's symbolism within Freemasonry also extends to notions of universal brotherhood and unity. Just as the sun shines its light impartially upon all without discrimination, so too are Freemasons called upon to embrace the principles of equality, tolerance, and fraternal love. Regardless of race, creed, or social status, all Freemasons are bound together by a common purpose – the pursuit of enlightenment.

Past Master’s Jewel in the shape of the sun inside a square and compasses.
Past Master’s Jewel, c. 1812, Boston, MA. Courtesy of SRMML.

Past Masters’ Jewels

Masonic regalia is a significant part of our ritual serving as tangible embodiments of our fraternal principles and teachings. It is fitting then that one such item of regalia used to regularly display the sun: Past Masters’ jewels.

These jewels vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but during the early 1800s, jewels presented to Past Masters in Massachusetts often featured the Masonic symbols of a sun within compasses with a quadrant connecting the legs of the compasses. This particular jewel seen above is a Masonic Past Master’s jewel that was presented to James Dickson, Past Master of Boston’s St. John’s Lodge, in 1812.

Our Quest for Truth

Throughout Masonic teachings and lectures, allegorical interpretations of the sun are found, offering profound insights into the nature of moral virtue, spiritual growth, and the quest for knowledge. The sun's ceaseless journey across the sky is often likened to the Masonic journey of self-improvement and enlightenment, emphasizing the importance of perseverance and steadfastness in the pursuit of truth. It serves as a potent reminder of the fraternity's core values and principles, and by incorporating this ancient and universal symbol into our ceremonies, we honor the timeless quest for light, truth, and spiritual fulfillment.

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