This symbolic use of the three lesser lights is very old, found in the earliest lectures of the eighteenth century. The three lights, like the three principal officers and the three principal supports, refer to the three stations of the sun – its rising in the east, its meridian in the south, and its setting in the west. The sun is a representation of authority and hence the Master in the east is a symbol of the rising sun; the Junior Warden in the south of the meridian sun; and the Senior Warden in the west of the setting sun; and thus the symbolism of the lodge, as typical of the world, continues to be preserved.
The use of lights in all religious ceremonies is an ancient custom. There was a seven branched candlestick in the tabernacle, and in the temple “were the golden candlesticks, five on the right hand and five on the left.” They were always typical of moral, spiritual, or intellectual light.
The custom prevalent in some localities of placing the burning tapers, or three symbolic lesser lights, in the east, west, and south, near the altar, is sometimes changed so that these are burning on or beside the pedestals of the Master and his two Wardens at their several stations.
In the old Teutonic mythology, and in accordance with Medieval court usage, flaming lights or fires burned before each column, similarly situated, on which rested the images of Odin, Thor, and Frey. These columns are further represented as wisdom, strength, and beauty, sustaining the “Starry-decked Heaven” roof or ceiling colored blue, with stars.
Compiled by Jack R. Levitt
Past Grand Master of California