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THE THREE PILLARS
by W. Brother R. A. L. Harland, P.M.
On the Tracing Board of the First Degree appear three Pillars (Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian), springing from the ground, rising into the heavens, supporting no visible structure, and yet forming conspicuous emblems. These are said to allude to Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty, which to the uninstructed are nothing more than sentimental abstractions. The three Pillars, however, here represent an indissociable trinity of Divine attributes. In the same way as the white light of the Sun is invisible until passed through a prism which decomposes it into seven constituent colors, of which three are primaries, so when "that Light which is from above" falls upon the prism of the human soul, the sevenfold properties then begin to manifest, and of these also three are primaries, called in the Craft system Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty. Moreover, like the Master and Wardens of the Lodge, who always act in concert, these triple attributes are inseparable; and if Wisdom from on high visits the soul, Strength comes likewise, whilst Beauty shapes the structure and irradiates it with spiritual graces.
The significance of the three Pillars has a further intimate relationship with members of the Craft, which is seldom recognized. When a candidate submits himself to the Masonic rites, professedly entering them "by the help of God" and to seek the Light as "the predominant wish" of his heart, by that act the Supernal Light is solemnly invoked upon him and he becomes brought into organic relationship with spiritual powers.
Not only does he enter the Craft in his temporal Lodge; he is spiritually incorporated with the Grand Lodge above, and, through the invisible hierarchy, with the Great Architect over all. He, as it were, "signs on" as a Fellowcraftsman in the Scheme of Divine Building, and becomes sealed as such. In a literally true sense he is "made a Mason," for a subtle change is wrought in his soul which does in fact make him spiritually different from those who have not been initiated. It matters not whether he or those who perform our rites for his benefit are aware of this truth; he may be assured that our Ceremonies, even if performed with but an imperfect knowledge of their value, are not worked in vain. Indeed, a ray of that Supernal Light, whose rainbow elements are symbolized by the Pillars named Wisdom, Strength and Beauty, falls upon his soul; and it rests with himself to profit by the experience. Subsequently, should he examine the Certificate granted to every Brother on the completion of the three Degrees, he would observe thereon the identical three Pillars prominently displayed to remind him of having once, of his "own free will and accord," been drawn within that Celestial Glory whose indivisible attributes are Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty.
One other important point connected with the three Pillars will be of interest to students. The terms Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty, in their Hebrew originals, are the equivalents of what are otherwise translated from the Greek as "the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory." These words form the concluding phrase of the Gospel according to St. Matthew version of the Lord's Prayer, but are of much greater age, and will be found in the prayer of David: "Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory and the majesty; for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is Thine; Thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and Thou art exalted as Head above all." (1 Chronicles, chapter 29, verse II). The prominence given in the Craft to the triad of Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty, is one of the many links definitely associating modern Freemasonry with the stream of the traditional ancient doctrine. There is an old Masonic rhyme which declares cryptic language:-
Who would a Master Mason be, Must always observe the Rule of Three."
This curious "rule of three," it need hardly be added, is not the one learned by schoolboys; nor does it refer only to the numerous triadic combinations found in Freemasonry and cognate systems. The real rule is concerned with the practical teaching embodied in the Craft system, which is intended to assist earnest Brethren to a conscious knowledge of the realization of Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty, but this being a matter for personal reflection and observance it must be left to the student himself to interpret. Suffice it to say that the Hebrew words of the mystical tradition, or Kaballah, have technical meanings, which connote a wealth of significance to those studying our Masonic science. Of especial value are the chapters of the Book of Wisdom, where Solomon describes Wisdom and the conditions upon which it may be attained, and emphasizes that it is the result of persistent effort in which every faculty must be disciplined and concentrated on the goal. Hence the insistence in the Craft system upon the necessity of candidates when advanced in each degree being "properly prepared," and in possession of the requisite qualifications.
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Last modified: March 22, 2014