The point is made that the Summer Solstice and Leo is especially venerated in the Royal Arch system of Masonry, forming the “capstone” of that system, and that Mathers as a Mason therefore positioned the Summer Solstice in the East, which is supposed to correspond with a “Royal Arch Zodiac” where we also can find Leo in close proximity (see image above). This, they assert, must have been the actual inspiration of using Regulus in the esoteric astrological system of the Golden Dawn.
Furthermore, the Triple Tau Cross, the peculiar ensign of Royal Arch Freemasonry, is here supposed to confirm this proposition of a Masonic Zodiac. The top of the image being aligned with East, the two horizontal crosses here are attributed to the Equinoxes while the single vertical Tau Cross becomes the symbol of the Summer Solstice in the supposed Eastern quarter.
Even if I myself am a Freemason I have to confess that I am not a scholar of Anglo-Saxon Masonry, especially of the Royal Arch kind, so I can have missed something here. But doing a quick search in the book referred to in this debate, Stellar Theology by Robert Hewitt Brown, I cannot find any reference to a “Royal Arch Masonic Zodiac” which places the Summer Solstice in the East.
These adherents however points to the fact that the cornerstone in the Masonic Temple is in the North-East (which nicely corresponds with the placement of Leo in that supposed Zodiacal system), missing the point that it simply is a reference to the position of the sun rising in the East at the time of the Summer Solstice. This fact however doesn’t necessarily place the Sign of Leo in the North-East.
Using this imagined Zodiac the proponents of this summer-solstice-in-the-east theory even explain the L.V.X. Signs as actually confirming it. Here they are referring to a Mathers’ paper called The True System of Astrological Divination, which plainly state that “the Sign of Osiris Slain representeth the Equinoctial Forces” while the Sign of the Mourning of Isis is the equivalent of “the Force of Light illuminating at its greatest pitch”. However, that paper doesn’t at all refer to any Zodiac, either of the ordinary nor any one supposedly made especially for the Royal Arch.
So, even if Christian Churches in fact once were built according to the shape of the crucifix there is no innate evidence following here that standing with both your arms outstretched from the sides of your body, as in the Sign of the Osiris Slain, the hands are supposed to touch the South and North sides of the Temple and providing proof of the Equinoxes being placed along this axis. Instead I believe them to together form the “axis” corresponding with the horizon, i.e. aligned with the latitude of the Equinoxes. Standing with your right arm pointing towards the highest point of heaven, as in the Sign of the Morning of Isis, will of course associate that sign with the Sun at his highest peak at noon, and through this symbology translate into the Summer Solstice and not through the Sign of Cancer in a curiously arranged Zodiacal wheel which doesn’t seem to have any real basis in Freemasonry.
Regarding using Leo as a staring point in erecting a sidereal map of the heavens it has nothing to do with placing Leo in the East, which is the position of the Vernal Equinox. It’s simply a mode of aligning the Constellation of Leo with the Zodiacal Sign of Leo when erecting a horoscope in synchronization of ritual. The equinoctial points are still associated with Aries and Libra on the Temple floor, as the Equinox Ceremony of the Golden Dawn plainly proves. Thus I believe this error to have its origin in a misinterpretation which is based on the following statement made in Ritual “O”:
…throughout the true Tarot, the teaching assigns the commencing Point of the Zodiac to the bright Star “Regulus” wich is in Leo. And it measures Right Ascension and Longitude from that point, and not from a suppositious point divided by the Equinox and called 0° of Aries (though in realty now far removed from the constellation of that name), which has been adopted by modern or western astronomy and astrology.The practical reality is however that in sidereal astrology one is supposed to place the cusp of Leo in the location of the fixed star Regulus or Cor Leonis. One such modern system is the popular Fagan-Bradley system which uses a modified form of this philosophy and puts Regulus not at the cusp but at five degrees, six seconds Leo. This original practice in the Golden Dawn is based on a old Mesopotamian system which obviously was known to Mathers well enough not to confuse the Vernal Equinox with that of Regulus (which is actually hinted at in the above quoted text). Hence in Rosicrucian Sidereal Astrology the starting point of Regulus is in 0° of Leo, which places Pisces at the Vernal Equinox. But this fact of course doesn’t necessitate any changes of the Zodiacal floor plan of the Temple.
In the Golden Dawn both the tropical and the sidereal systems of erecting a map of the heavens are used. They have both their definitive places within the tradition. In the Golden Dawn one oftenmost limit the use of the sidereal Zodiac for synchronization of ritual, for example in talismanic work. In natal astrology one often uses the traditional tropical Zodiac and of course also for symbolical purposes, such as in the occult attributions of the Major Arcana of the Tarot, even if the Lesser Arcana is associated with the sidereal Zodiac which starts off with Leo. The Houses for example are still attributed to the Zodiacal Signs of the tropical Zodiac.
That both systems have a traditional foundation within the Golden Dawn is evidenced from the Knowledge Lectures of the Outer Order which uses the tropical Zodiac, while the Ritual “O” and other papers of the Inner Order uses the sidereal system together with the tropical. This side by side use of both systems are beautifully portraited in the Tarot, where the Minor Arcana uses the former and the Major Arcana the latter. This arrangement gives some hints of the uses of the two contradictory systems, and that one is used with the Tarot Keys and the other with the Lesser Cards.
Personally I believe the tropical Zodiac to be of greater value on the inner planes and with Theurgy; such as in clairvoyance, divination and spiritual development, which validates its use with natal astrology; the symbolical significance of the constellations plays a more important role here. The sidereal Zodiac is more suited for physical workings, such as in Alchemy, in consecrations of objects and other workings of the nature of Thaumaturgy, where the actual physical positions of the constellations plays a more important role.
Be there as it may, the sideral Zodiac still has no place at all in the Temple Halls of the Outer Order Grades. Perhaps this is related to the fact that the main purpose of initiation is spiritual developement.
Nevertheless, invoking the Royal Arch and Scottish Rites of Masonry, and the illuminated authority of Albert Pike, referring to the fact that the Temple floor of the Neophyte Hall is associated with the Tree of Life ascending towards the East, these proponents of the summer-solstice-in-the-east theory still suggests the Summer Solstice to be associated with highest Sephirah of Kether, or “Crown”, and the Winter Solstice with Malkuth, according to this quote from his Morals and Dogma:
We know, through a precise testimony in the ancient annals of Tsur, that the principal festivity of Malkarth, the incarnation of the Sun at the Winter Solstice, held at Tsur, was called his rebirth or his awakening, and that it was celebrated by means of a pyre, on which the god was supposed to regain, through the aid of fire, a new life. This festival was celebrated in the month Peritius (Barith), the second day of which corresponded to the 25th of December. Khur-um, King of Tyre, Movers says, first performed this ceremony. These facts we learn from Josephus, Servius on the AEneid, and the Dionysiacs of Nonnus; and through a coincidence that cannot be fortuitous, the same day was at Rome the Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, the festal day of the invincible Sun. Under this title, Hercules, HAR-acles, was worshipped at Tsur. Thus, while the temple was being erected, the death and resurrection of a Sun-God was annually represented at Tsur, by Solomon’s ally, at the winter solstice, by the pyre of Mal-karth, the Tsurian Haracles.However Pike says in the same book that the name of Malkarth in fact is a reference to the sun god, which also goes by the names of Brahma, Amun, Osiris, Bel, Adonis, Mithras and Apollo. Actually Malkarth is a Phoenician god. Thus it has nothing whatsoever to do with the Hebrew noun Malkuth, which means “Kingdom” and denotes the lowest of the Ten Sephiroth.
Furthermore one knowledgeable Freemason has the following to say regarding Masonic Astrology, which is quite enlightening in this context and interesting enough to be quoted in full:
Pike makes many references, some seemingly contradictory, to the signs of the Zodiac in relation to the procession of the solstices and equinoxes. In the Knight of the Brazen Serpent (25th) degree, he notes that Cancer and Capricorn are the “Gates of the Sun” as the Milky Way crosses at these constellations (not signs). He is careful to make the distinction between this attribution, and the procession of the signs in astrology. I think this throws a lot of people off.So obviously, like this fellow Freemason, I don’t agree with this proposition of the Solstice placement in the East of the Temple. I regard it as seriously flawed, perhaps a token of bad scholarship even, not taking either Freemasonry nor the Golden Dawn tradition and its system of correspondences, or even intuition, into account. I believe it is obvious for most of my readers why, but I will nevertheless further recount the main points of my refuting position.
In the Prince of the Tabernacle (24th) degree, which sets the background and stage for the 25th degree (and is itself heavily referenced within the following degree), Pike clearly states that Aries, the Sun in Aries, is an equinoctal sign. In the same degree he also places the Tomb of Osiris, which we may relate to the vault of CRC [Christian Rosenkreutz], in Aries. I won’t go into length, but for Pike the Sun in Aries is the vernal equinox placed in the East - this is a theme repeated throughout Scottish Rite masonry, and those of you who have taken the degrees will know what I'm talking about in a very real sense.
The same too in Royal Arch Masonry of the York Rite - the Vernal Equinox is identified with Aries and placed in the East, where the Sun or “that which was lost” is eventually found (my apologies for being necessarily cryptic here). In the book “The Royal Secret” by I. Edward Clark, the process of degrees to Aries in the East is described as an “ascent” to the Sun.
People often make the mistake of thinking Leo is in the East in Royal Arch Masonry, because the drama of masonic ritual refers to the building of King Solomon’s Temple. At the time of the supposed building, the constellation of Leo would have been at the solistial point, and therefore the summit of the “Royal Arch”, the place where the keystone is placed. This is why Leo is at the apex of the triple-tau cross and the royal arch within masonry, and it does not refer to placement in the East.
The triple-tau cross and Royal Arch symbols are used relative to their positions in Lodge or Chapter. The three pillars are clearly denoted to every Royal Arch mason as Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty. Wisdom is placed in Virgo, Strength is placed is Leo, and Beauty is placed in Aries. What is important here is that these pillars correspond to those on the tree of life - Wisdom as the Pillar of Chesed, Strength as the Pillar of Geburah (hence Leo corresponding to fire, Mars, etc.), and Beauty, Aries, corresponding to the Middle Pillar of Kether and Malkuth.
In SRIA [Societas Rosicruciania in Anglia], Aries is placed as the vernal equinox in the East in both the Zelator (at the point in the ritual involving the symbolic representation of the universe this is made crystal clear) and Adeptus Minor (by the LVX signs, those who have taken this will recognize them) rituals. Also if you have ever seen an SRIA certificate given upon initiation into the order, this is again made clear.
As the founders of GD were past Supreme Magus’ of SRIA, and as the elemental attributions of GD rituals seem to correspond with those of SRIA in various ways (GD being far more advanced), I have always taken the SRIA attributions to be the same as the GD ones.
The cusps of Aries and Libra corresponds with the Ascendant and Descendant respectively, as Capricorn and Cancer with the Medium Coeli and Imum Coeli respectively. These signs and positions of the Zodiacal wheel and house system together make two axis which corresponds with the equinoctial points and the one made by the solstices, the former with the Ascendant (Aries) and Descendant (Libra), and the latter with the Medium Coeli (Capricorn) and Imum Coeli (Cancer) called the meridian.
Now it is a well established fact in the Golden Dawn to associate the Ascendant and Aries with the East, Medium Coeli and Capricorn with South, the Descendant and Libra with West and lastly the Imum Coeli and Cancer with North. The key to this assignment of the points of the Zodiac is according to the Hexagram Ritual, where the four forms of the Zodiac are associated with the Cardinal Signs of the Zodiac, viz. Aries with the Eastern form, Capricorn with the Southern form, Libra with the Western form, and Cancer with the Northern form.
This fact clearly aligns the East and West axis of the Temple floor with the equinoctial points and the South and North axis with the solstices. This alignment of the Equinoxes with East and West is fairly common and intuitive knowledge though, without invoking the Hexagram associations of the Golden Dawn. The Ascendant and the cusp of the First House is associated with the Eastern horizon, the place of the rising sun; the rising sign (i.e. Ascendant) is to be found in the East. Likewise the Descendant and cusp of the seventh House is associated with the setting sun and the Western horizon. These two points are associated with the temperate seasons of spring and autumn respectively.
The meridian creates a problem though as the Medium Coeli and cusp of the tenth House is associated with the noon or the highest position of the sun, while the Imum Coeli and cusp of the fourth House is corresponding with midnight and lowest position of the sun, and the fact that the former is associated with Capricorn, the Sign of winter, and the latter with Cancer or the Sign of Summer. However there is no doubt that this axis created by the Solstices becomes well established and aligned with the meridian, as they both represent the extreme opposites of the seasons and the sun at his greatest strength and weakness.
Likewise the four phases of the Sun during the 24 hour cycle of the day is according to my belief correspondent with the Equinoxes and Solstices of the 12 months cycle of the year; the day is a lesser reflection of the greater cycle of the year. Thus the eastern dawn is associated with the Vernal Equinox and the western twilight with the Autumnal Equinox, as both represent the perfect balance between light and darkness, while the southern midday is associated with the Summer Solstice and the northern midnight with the Winter Solstice, as they are associated with the sun at his greatest strength and weakness respectively.
And again, even if the Midheaven (Medium Coeli) with Capricorn and the lowest heaven (Imum Coeli) with Cancer contradict the intuitive position of the seasons where these signs are reversed, it still establishes the axis of the Solstices. This fact and the placement of the opposites are further confirmed by the placement of the white and black Pillars in the Neophyte Hall.
That the East is associated with the dawning of light, as associated with spring and the Vernal Equinox, and the West with the setting of light, as associated with the Autumnal Equinox, is established beyond any doubt, as is confirmed by the speeches of the Hierophant and Hiereus at the opening of the Neophyte Grade, where the former states that he stands at the place of “the rise of the Sun of Life and Light”, and the latter that he is in the place of “Increase of darkness; decrease of light”. Notice that they don’t stand at the positions of the greatest Light and greatest Darkness respectively, which would have been suggested by the Solstices, but simply increase and decrease.
In the same manner the Dadouchos, which is positioned at the South and in close proximity to the white Pillar, is said “to symbolize heat and dryness” reflecting the Summer Solstice, while the Stolises in the North and besides the black Pillar likewise is said “to symbolize cold and moisture”, reminecent of freezing water and embodying the Winter Solstice.
Furthermore, the highly interesting paper written by John William Brodie-Innes called The Canopic Gods states: “Kabexnuf is guarded by Sakhet, the Sun at the Western Equinox”. So here again we have a confirmation made by a highly acclaimed Golden Dawn Adept which clearly places the Equinoxes at the East and West axis where they rightly belong.