In alchemy there is no creation without the union of opposites….
The moon (silver) represents fertility, resurrection and immortality, and is a feminine property – the White Queen that alchemists would integrate with the sun to create sublime balance. There would thus be marriage between the sun and the moon, creating sexual union and rebirth, and they can both sometimes be seen on Christian iconography situated at either side of the cross, indicating resurrection of the Divine.
The sun (gold) is masculine, is associated with the imagery of the Red King, and signifies the Divine spark of man. It is this union between the sun and the moon that is so vital to understanding the life, death and rebirth of nature; the sun rising in the east enlightening and ruling the day, setting in the west, and after the darkness, rising again. The moon however can take away the darkness of the night, guiding people home through the uneasy dark night. It was said to change people’s characters when full, and in folklore, was to govern the spells of witches and magicians. Together in sexual union, the sun and moon create the Rebis, sometimes referred to as a Divine being that has both male and female qualities, a reconciliation of spirit and matter.
Alchemical references in Freemasonry
In Freemasonry, the sun and the moon are still prominent symbols within the lodge, both giving light. Some lodges in the eighteenth and nineteenth century were known as full moon lodges, as they met on the night of the full moon, or on the nearest particular night to a full moon, as to light the way home in an age where there were no street lighting.
The stages of purification are reached in the alchemical process, the transmutation of a base metal (lead) into a noble metal (gold) being similar to the perfection of a Mason, the new Master Mason being reborn during the third degree after the symbolic death of the old Master, in a symbolic never-ending cycle of life, death and rebirth. The education of a Mason as he completes the lessons of the degrees, perfecting him and making him a better man.
This union of the sun and the moon can be seen in the alchemical masterpiece Splendor Solis, (1582), London BL, Harley 3469 fol-10, King & queen with sun & moon. The White Queen can be seen standing on the moon, the Red King standing on the fire of the sun, both moon and sun hang above them. The colours are also important in the alchemical process.
The rich symbolism of the sun and the moon is as powerful as ever, and for those who learn from this symbolism within Freemasonry, a deeper understanding can be achieved of the Master Masons degree, that of the death of the old Master, and his rebirth as the new Master Mason, a symbolic resurrection.