The Two Great Pillars
V.W.Bro. Harold W. Hughes G.R.Ont. 1957
Of all the objects to which the candidates, attention is called as they begin their ascent to the middle chamber, none are more conspicuous or more deserving of the most thorough attention or investigation than the "TWO GREAT PILLARS".
At one and the same time, they guard the Sanctum from the outer world, and invite the Initiate into its mysteries.
They are so noble in proportion, so intricate in design, so beautiful to see, they seem to keep solemn watch above the scene, as if to throw a hush of awe about the soul that would mount to the Upper Room of the spirit.
If throughout our history, students of Masonry have surrounded them with a host of swarming theories and made these theories more intricate than the network, and more multitudinous than the pomegranates, it is because so many hints of ancient wisdom and secrets of symbolism have of old been hidden within these mighty columns.
And if our studies of the matter lead us to meanings too numerous and almost conflicting we need not worry about it, for a symbol that says but one thing is hardly a symbol at all.
There are many descriptions in ancient history of the fundamental use of pillars, but by no people were they so venerated or so variously used as by the Egyptians.
Originally, perhaps they served as astronomical instrum- ents to mark time, to denote the stages of the heavenly bodies, and to assist in the orienting of temples.
Connected with the places of worship they were gradually associated with the gods, and became in time symbols of deity.
It is possible that pillars being of this symbolic nature and their association to the gods of Hiram of Tyre, used them as models for the now famous pillars which he erected before the Temple of Solomon.
These pillars were eighteen cubits high — twelve in circumference — and the diameter four. If a cubit be accepted as eighteen inches, the measurements as we know them would be twenty-seven feet high — eighteen feet in circumference and six feet in diameter.
The general description of these pillars is well known to the brethren and it is sufficient to say that they were decorated with network, lily work and pomegranates.
The pillars were cylindrical in shape, and were cast of brass, and the combined weight must have been not less than fifty-three tons.
One of them was called _ _ _ _ and the other _ _ _ _ _ _ the former stood in the North-East corner of the porch and the latter in the South-East. _ _ _ _ _ _ was the right hand pillar, _ _ _ _ the left; and this means that right and left have reference to one standing inside the temple which faced the East.
According to tradition, the pillars were cast in the foundries between Succeth and Zeredatha, about thirty-five miles north east of Jerusalem, whose moulders and jewellers still use clay brought from that region.
Those pillars strange to say were not often copied by medieval builders, though they seem to have been imitated in the Cathedral of Notre Dame at Poitiers, erected in 1611 and in the Wirtzburg Cathedral in Bavaria. But at a very early date, they were used by masons for symbolic purposes as tes- tified by the history of the Old Charges of the Freemasons.
In this we find a curious legend which relates that before Noah's flood, Jabal, Jubal and Tubal Cain knew that God was to destroy the world, wherefore they wrote the sciences that they had found out on two pillars of stone. Hermes, that son of Cush, afterwards found the two pillars and the sciences written thereon; and Abraham taught them to the Egyptians. In as much as it was supposed that Masonry had come to Egypt, the old chronicles thus quaintly sought to link their traditions up to the very beginning of the world.
From these Old Charges, we may suppose the legend crept into symbolic lore of the Craft and was thus preserved until Speculative days, when the pillars symbolism became embodied in the rituals as we now know them.
What are the hidden meanings that are found in the TWO GREAT PILLARS?
William Preston saw in them a reference to the Pillar of Cloud and the Pillar of Fire by which it is said the Israel- ites were guided. This is ingenious, but altogether out of harmony with the long historical use of the emblems, for no other interpreter has found such meaning in them.
Caldecot believed that the Jewish King stood before one pillar in public ceremonies and the High Priest stood before the other, and that the pillars consequently stand for gov- ernment and religion in society.
Brother Covey-Crump, writing in the "Transactions of the Authors" made them stand for Space and Time, and the two pillars through which the human mind passes into knowledge.
Many of the old Jewish Rabbis, afterwards followed the Kabbalists, found in them symbolism of birth; as one wrote — "The names of the pillars signify potency and perpetuity; the pomegranates on the chapiter were symbols of generation". With this, after everything is taken into consideration, we are inclined to agree. Being properly stationed at the door of the lodge room, or on the porch of the Temple, they sig- nify entrance, for it is through them that the candidate passes to his initiation, and INITIATION as we have already seen is birth into a new life.
When thus understood, the TWO PILLARS represent a law that applies throughout the world of men, as well as in the lodge.