Pillars and Columns within Freemasonry. Part Two of Two. By Mike Lawrence

Section six – Architectural Styles of the Pillars

The five orders of Architecture were identified as early as 1562, in a book by Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola, who wrote about classical architecture. The book identifies the five orders as Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian and Composite with each part subdivided into other parts, all illustrating the styles of the colonnade arcade, arcade with pedestal, individual pedestal, entablatures and capitals.

Joseph Gwilt in The Encyclopaedia of Architecture explains the term ‘order’, thus:

“An Order in architecture is a certain assemblage of parts subject to uniform established proportions, regulated by the office that each part has to perform”

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The origin of the five Orders are thus.

  • The Doric order originated on the mainland and western Greece and is the simplest of the orders.
  • The Ionic order came from eastern Greece and its origins are entwined with the little known, Aeolic order.
  • The Corinthian order is the most ornate of the Greek orders and is characterized by the slender fluted column with ornate capitals decorated with two rows of acanthus leaves and four scrolls.

It was the Romans that adapted all the Greek orders and  developed two other orders which were modifications of the Greek orders, but they were not named or formalised as  Tuscan and Composite,  until the Renaissance period. Therefore, the Tuscan order was a very plain design, with a plain shaft, and a simple capital, base, and frieze and the Composite order is a mixed order, combining the volutes of the Ionic with the leaves of the Corinthian order.

Section Seven – The Origins of Pillars

Prior to the discovery of the Arch, it was primitive man that discovered the fundamental building principle of the upright and lintel, that is, the use of two upright posts supporting a beam or lintel. This made it possible to add doorways and windows and is found in early buildings all over the world.

The Egyptians, seeing the principal of the post and lintel, translated it into great columns supporting entablatures. The Greeks following suit used the same to form for their classical colonnades in such buildings like the Parthenon. The Chinese adapted a roof structure of decreasing posts and lintels piled on top of each other to support wide eaves of their roofs The Japanese used post and lintels to form the gateways to their temples.

temple-of-karnak

The Temple at Karnak

Section eight – Ritual Anomalies

a) In the explanation of the Second-Degree Tracing Board we are told the following:

“Those Pillars were further adorned with two spherical balls on which were delineated maps of the celestial and terrestrial globes, pointing out Masonry Universal.”

I have three problems with this statement:

1)  In 1 Kings 7:41 we read that: “The two pillars, and the two bowls of the chapiters that were on the top of the two pillars; and the two networks, to cover the two bowls of the chapiters which were upon the top of the pillars;”. The Volume of Sacred Law explains that the “spherical balls” were in fact “bowls”.

2) The second issue is that there were maps of the celestial and terrestrial globes delineated on those balls. Of course, there were no known such maps when King Solomon’s Temple was build.

3) The third point is that Masonry at that time was not universal and did not exist.

b) When we speak of King Solomon’s Temple in the Second Degree, we refer to a Pillar that is situated on the right. This takes its rise from:

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.”

Both verses are taken from the King James Version.

The ritual goes on explain that the right-hand Pillar “…was so named after Jachin the Assistant High Priest who officiated at its dedication.” However, the fact remains that it was not named after him and he did not officiate at the dedication of the Temple.

c) From the Explanation of the Second Degree Tracing Board, we are told in relation to those two great pillars that, “They were formed hollow, the better to serve as archives to Masonry, for therein were deposited the constitutional rolls.”

As you know there was no Freemasonry (as the Lecture implies) in those days and certainly no Constitutional Rolls.

Which all goes to show, our Traditional History is not historically accurate, but written to highlight salient points of our discipline.

Section nine – Humour

I recall one evening when a well-established Past Master, was called upon to present a recently Raised Master Mason with his Grand Lodge Certificate.  As you are aware, there is a no formal ceremony for the presentation, however there are guidelines on specific details to be included.

The brother was received enthusiastically and proceeded to display his remarkable knowledge of the origin and design of the certificate. As usual he had us all spellbound and he proceeded to the section that explains the three pillars, he went on: “…the outstanding feature of the design is, as you will notice, three pillars, each with its corresponding base. The one in the centre, like the Worshipful Master’s pillar in the Lodge, is of the Ionic Order adopted by Masons as an emblem of Wisdom and has reference to Solomon, King of Israel, and his wisdom in building, completing and dedicating the Temple at Jerusalem to God’s service.

The pillar on the left, like that of the Senior Warden’s, is of the Doric Order, emblematical of strength, such as the strength of Hiram, King of Tyre in supporting King Solomon with men and material.

The right-hand pillar, like the pillar of the Junior Warden, is of the Corinthian Order, the emblem of beauty…” at that point the brother halted, looked to the South, directed his comments to the Junior Warden and remarked, “…although I don’t know what happened in Brother Jones case” and calmly continued the presentation.

Needless to say, a loud ripple of laughter when thriugh the Lodge.

Section ten – Conclusion

I do not pretend that these two articles are exhaustive, and I have no doubt that with further research one could find lots more information. I also cannot confirm whether there is an inference to the Kabbalah.

The usages, traditions and practices Freemasonry are taken from many cultures, however, from that point on they are referred to in the Masonic sense only, and not used to symbolise the same as their earlier use may have implied. They are employed to accentuate salient points of our discipline and do not refer, imply, or associate themselves with past cultures of civilizations.

This is why many have confused Freemasonry with earlier cultures and  practices, which has tended to give Freemasonry a much earlier origin, that it actually has.

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Filed under Columns, Freemasonry, Globes, Masonic, Masonic History, Masonic Ritual, Masonic Traditions, Two Pillars

2 responses to “Pillars and Columns within Freemasonry. Part Two of Two. By Mike Lawrence

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