I found a question on a Masonic site recently in relation to the three pillars that support the Lodge. This was the question:
“Is it true that the three pillars of Freemasonry and the Tree of Life in the Kabbalah are related?”
Followed by this illustration:
There are several types of columns and pillars, referred to in Masonic teaching, here are some of the findings of my research.
Section One – The Pillars of Enoch
In Masonic lore, the outer Pillars of the Temple are often referred to as the “Pillars of Enoch”. Enoch, being aware that Adam predicted “that the world was to be destroyed at one time by the force of fire, and at another time by the violence and quantity of water.” (Flavius Josephus Antiquities, 1.2:3) Therefore fearing the principles of the Liberal Arts and Sciences might be lost, his son Seth caused two pillars to be made, the one of brick, the other of stone, (various other documents refer to other materials being used) they inscribed their discoveries on them both, this was in case the pillar of brick should be destroyed by the flood, the pillar of stone might remain, and exhibit those discoveries to mankind. The story of the Pillars became enshrined in Masonic teachings through the second earliest Masonic MS.
“…knowing of that vengeance, that God would send, whether it should be by fire, or by water, the brethren had it not by a manner of a prophecy that God would send there, therefore they wrote their sciences on the two pillars of stone, and some men say that they wrote in the stones all the seven sciences, but as they had in their minds that a vengeance should come. And so it was that God sent vengeance so that there came such a flood that all the world was drowned, and all men were dead therein, save eight persons…and many years after this flood, as the chronicle telleth, these two pillars were found…” The Matthew Cooke Manuscript c.1450 (Modern Translation)
Section Two – The Pillars at the porch way or entrance to the Temple of King Solomon
In an article entitled, The History of the Two Pillars, W. L. Fawcette says:
“The tradition of the Freemasons in regard to the two pillars, which are a prominent emblem of their Craft, is, that they represent the pillars Jachin and Boaz, which Hiram of Tyre made for Solomon, and set one on either side of the entrance to the Temple, to commemorate the pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night which guided the Israelite’s in their forty years wanderings in the wilderness.”
Our ritual explains in respect of the two Pillars:
“They were set up as a memorial to the children of Israel of that miraculous pillar of fire and cloud which had two wonderful effects. The fire gave light to the Israelite’s during their escape from their Egyptian bondage, and the cloud proved darkness to Pharaoh and his followers when they attempted to overtake them. King Solomon ordered them to be placed at the entrance of the Temple, as the most proper and conspicuous situation for the children of Israel to have the happy deliverance of their forefathers continually before their eyes in going to and returning from Divine worship”.
Whatever significance the Hebrews may have attached to these pillars, there is good reason for believing that they received the material emblem from the Tyrians at the time of the building of the Temple. The Scriptures give a detailed account of the dimensions and designs of the pillars, (2 Kings 7 and 2 Chronicles 3) but are silent as to their significance; and there is nothing in the whole Scriptural account of them to forbid the conclusion that the ideas symbolised by them were as much Tyrian as Jewish.
Tyre had been a rich and prosperous city for over two hundred years, when Solomon undertook the building of the Temple. The Tyrians had been skilled in architecture and other arts to a degree that implied a high state of mental culture, while the Hebrews were yet nomadic tribes living in tents. The tabernacle was only a tent, and in this first Hebrew endeavour to give it a more enduring structure of wood and stone, Solomon naturally appealed to the greater skill of the subjects of the friendly Hiram, King of Tyre.
When the Hebrews began to build the Temple, they ceased their wanderings, they became permanently established, and, as a memorial of this fact, they embodied in the architectural design of the Temple, a symbol which, by the Tyrians and many other nations descended from the ancient Aryan stock, was considered emblematic of a divine leadership that had conducted them to a new and permanent home; this was the true significance of the two pillars.
Section Three – The symbol of the “broken column”
We learn that under the Hebrews, columns or pillars were used metaphorically to signify Princes or Nobles, as if they were the pillars of a state. In Psalm 6:3 we read, “If the foundations be destroyed what can the righteous do?” meaning in the original, “when the columns are overthrown, that is, when the firm supporters of what is right and good have perished.”
Isaiah 14:10 reads “…her (Egypt’s) columns are broken down, that is, the nobles of her state.”
Thus, in Freemasonry, the broken column, which is not that common in the English Masonic system, is the emblem of the fall of one of the chief supporters of the Craft. The use of the column or pillars as a monument erected over a tomb was a very ancient custom, and was a very significant symbol of the character and spirit of the person interred.
Section Four – The Pillars that support the Lodge
The Lodge is supported by three great pillars, which are called Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty.
Wisdom, illustrated by the Ionic column and found at the Worship Masters station in the East, helps contrive and conduct us in all our undertakings.
Strength, illustrated by the Doric column and found at the Senior Wardens station in the West, helps support us in all our difficulties.
Beauty, illustrated by the Corinthian column and found at the Junior Wardens station in the South, helps adorn the inward man.
Therefore, the Universe is the Temple of the Deity whom we serve; Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty are about His throne as pillars of His works, for His Wisdom is infinite, His Strength omnipotent, and Beauty shines through the whole of the creation in symmetry and order.
Section Five – The Names of the two great Pillars
You have heard the names of the two great Pillars that stood at the porch way or entrance of King Solomon’s Temple.
2 Chronicles 3:17 “And he reared up the pillars before the temple, one on the right hand, and the other on the left; and called the name of that on the right hand Jachin, and the name of that on the left Boaz.”
1 Kings 7:21 “And he set up the pillars in the porch of the temple: and he set up the right pillar, and called the name thereof Jachin: and he set up the left pillar, and called the name thereof Boaz.”
In Masonic teaching, we learn we learn that the import of both names being “In Strength” and “To Establish” respectively. This conforms to the writings of Flavius Josephus who wrote in the 1st Century A.D. that Boaz means “In Him Strength or In It Strength” and Jachin means “He Will establish or It will establish” (Antiquities of the Jews). Masonic teaching also advises us that when conjoined, the words mean “Stability”, for God said, “In strength I will establish this mine house to stand firm for ever”. However, nowhere in any version of the bible do we read God using these words. The nearest we can get to the phrase is found in 1 Chronicles, 17:12 which says:
“He shall build me an house, and I will stablish his throne for ever.”