Q. Why are the three great zodiacal points which support the Royal Arch of heaven also emblematic of wisdom, strength, and beauty?
A. At the time of the building of King Solomon's temple, or about 1004 B.C., the celestial equator cut the ecliptic at about 10° of the constellation Aries. At that period the constellation Leo was therefore near the solstitial point, and summit of the zodiacal arch. Now, as the lion is the strongest of beasts, and because the summit or key of an arch is its strongest point, and the sun, when he reaches that point, has the greatest glory and power, it being the summer solstice, when the day is the longest—that point is emblematic of strength. The vernal equinox signifies beauty, because it marks the opening of spring, which is the season of beauty, and adorns both the heavens with light and the earth with flowers. The autumnal equinox denotes wisdom, because it is the season of maturity. Near that point is also seen the constellation of the Serpent, in all ages typical of wisdom, and in many ancient zodiacs this point is designated by the figure of a serpent.
Q. How may the truth and beauty of this be more strongly impressed upon the mind?
A. By contemplating the Royal Arch itself as it actually appears in the heavens.
Q. What is required in order to be able to do so?
A. A sufficient knowledge of the constellations and a favorable time of observation.
Q. What is the most favorable time to observe the Royal Arch?
A. If we wish to observe the constellations as they were at the summer solstice at the time of the building of King Solomon's temple, we should view the heavens about the 1st of August, but as the sun in the south at high twelve, by its overpowering light, prevents the proper stars being seen, it will be necessary to defer our observations for six months, or until about the 5th of February, at which time the same stars are visible at midnight. "Low twelve," about the 5th of February, is, therefore, the best time to view the Royal Arch.
If we then take our station, looking south, and lift our eyes to the vast arch of heaven, the spectacle will be one of unsurpassed magnificence, and to an intelligent mason eloquent with the truths of his profession. Far up the blue concave, and within less than 30° of the summit of the arch, will be seen the constellation Leo, typical of STRENGTH; on either side will be seen the constellations Aries and Libra, which anciently marked the equinoctial points, and upon which the whole majestic arch seems to rest.
Libra, the Balance, is typical of what WISDOM which, in the scales of Reason, duly weighs and considers all things; while Aries, marking the ancient place of the vernal equinox, is typical of BEAUTY, and also gives a sure token that the sun, which lies dead in the cold arms of Night and Winter, will arise again in the springtime, clothed with new life and power. The vernal equinox, or sign Aries, is therefore also the symbol of immortality, and teaches that the soul of man will rise in glory from the darkness of the grave. It also reminds masons of the lamb, "which has in all ages been considered an emblem of innocence," and admonishes him of that purity of life and conduct which is so essentially necessary to his gaining admission into the celestial lodge above, where the Supreme Architect of the universe presides.
In the east, in close proximity to Libra, stands the beautiful virgin of the zodiac, the constellation Virgo. In her left hand gleams the bright star Spica, while not far away toward the north Arcturus shines in splendor. In the west Taurus is seen with the Pleiades. Orion also lifts his giant form along the sky, sublime in his majesty and beauty. Still lower down, and near the horizon, blazes the great sun-star Sirius. Procyon also shines with almost equal glory higher up the sky.
Gemini, too, the twin brothers Castor and Pollux, offspring of the mighty Jove, adorn the heavens. In the north "Cassiopea sits in her golden chair," while the Great Bear guards the pole. There, too, are seen Cepheus, and Andromeda bound to the rock with chains. The polar star, emblem of eternal constancy, shines with a steady light; while around the pole the scaly Dragon coils his glittering folds. Meanwhile, as we continue to observe the midnight meridian, other constellations, as they rise, light up the gleaming arch, each teaching a different lesson, and all—
"Forever singing, as they shine, The hand that made us is divine."
The accompanying diagram of the Royal Arch is but a geometrical projection, and, therefore, gives nothing more than the relative positions of the various constellations and signs of the Royal Arch. The summer solstice is represented as the key-stone of the arch, and has the astronomical sign of the sun inscribed upon it, showing that on the 21st of June the sun is exalted to the summit of the arch. It was formerly thought that the ancient Egyptians were not acquainted with "arch" in architecture, but late discoveries show that it was known to them at lest 2100 B.C. (See Wilkinson's "Egyptians of the Time of the Pharaohs," p. 137.)
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