Here another problem crops up. The Initiate has been distinctly told that, " Our Lodges are supported by three great Pillars." But so far we have discovered only two. Where is the third? We never hear anything about it. But let us note the various statements that are made about the three mysterious pillars: -
(a) They are "emblematical" of three divine qualities or attributes, viz.: Wisdom, Strength, Beauty; this implies that there are representations of them somewhere in the Lodge, as, for instance, in the T.B.'s.
(b) Without prejudice to their real mystic significance, we sometimes " refer them to the three most famous Orders of Architecture, viz., the Ionic, Doric, and Corinthian "; as, for instance, when we carve the three columns of the Principal Officers, which exemplify those three styles.
 (c) They are said to represent the three historic G.M.'s who bore sway at the building of the first Temple at Jerusalem, represented also by the Principal Officers.
The conception of three Pillars is unquestionably a landmark of the Order, for it can be traced back to the second oldest Masonic Charge, viz., the Matthew Cooke MS. (which dates from about A.D. 1430, and is made up of still older materials), where we read that the wisdom of the antediluvian world was providentially preserved by means of three Pillars, discovered after the Flood by two eminent Masons, Bro. Pythagoras and Bro. Hermes.
Of Bro. Pythagoras we know that he was initiated into the Mysteries at Samothrace, being cryptically referred to in some of the Old English Charges as " Peter Gower." And as to Bro. Hermes, we believe that the name is simply the Greek form of Hiram. The tradition of the preservation of learning by means of some pillars on which the ideas of an earlier age had been recorded, is found in many other writers, and it tallies with what we ourselves say about B. and J., that they were designed " to serve as archives to Masonry,"  that is to say, as repositories of Masonic knowledge, wherein were deposited the Constitutional Rolls, the V. of the S.L., and other literary treasures which would benefit future generations.
The number "three" corresponds with the general character of Masonry. In K.S.T. there were the three sections already noted: the Porch, the Holy Place, and the Sanctum Sanctorum. And in the Lodge we have the principal Officers at the E., S., and W., who preside over the three Orders of Masons, each of them exhibiting an actual column by his side. If the columns of the two W.'s correspond to B. and J., to what does the one exhibited by the W.M. correspond?
In the Explanation of the Second T.B., the two pillars B. and J. are said to be " a Memorial " of the Pillar of fire and cloud which is there described. And the statement raises a suspicion that this Third Pillar corresponds to the Altar of Incense, represented also by the P. in front of the W.M., and by something else in the Chapter; on the Altar of Incense there was " fire and cloud," or smoke. In K.S.T. it stood in front of the entrance to the Sanctum Sanctorum.
 The symbol of three allegorical Pillars has been used differently in other systems. Thus, for example, the Kabbalists conceived them as ranged on a line across the middle of their mystic Temple: Wisdom on the S. side, Strength (or Fortitude) in the N., and Beauty (alias Benignity, which is beauty of character) between the two, that is, "in the center."
The Kabbalists also pointed out that B. and J. consisted of six distinct parts, viz., two shafts, two chapiters, and two entablatures; and they gave symbolic names to all these. But it does not follow that the Master Pillar was constructed in the same way. Rather we must consider it as a single object without chapiter or entablature - as we see it in the Chapter, - and therefore adding this indivisible Pillar to the six constituent parts of the Twin Pillars, we obtain a total of seven, a symbolic number.
We have already ascertained the fact that the columns are emblematic of the three offices of Priest, Prophet, and King, and these offices are combined in the M.M. In this respect they teach that it is the knowledge of T.T.A.L.G.M.H. (typified by the Prophet)  that gives strength and consistency to the M.M.'s character.
Nothing definite is said concerning the form, name, or situation of the Third Pillar. But if what has been alleged be more than mere fancy, or a new-fangled invention, or a chimerical notion, there ought to be some indication of their character and function; the matter is too important to be passed over without notice.
Arguing, by analogy, the matter might be put thus: If B. and J. belong to the E.A. and F.C. respectively, then, the third unnamed Pillar must appertain to the M.M.; and again, if B. and J. correspond to the J. and S.W.'s, this other one must relate to the W.M. We might even go further, or look higher, and say: If the first two represent the Sun and Moon, this last must stand for the Master of the cosmic Lodge. The Kabbalists used to say that by advancing in the study of the V. of the S.L. one learned " to unite the Blessed Name and the mystery of J. and B." Indeed, the Kabbalistic treatise entitled Gates of Light contains the following curious statement about J. and B.: " By these two Pillars and by the Living God  (El Hai) the mind and souls descend, as by their passages and channels," i.e. they must pass through them in the process of their illumination. Obviously, therefore, the Third Pillar was taken to be emblematical of the Living God that is, of the Master, the " Master " of the cosmic Lodge, of Light and Life, from whom we derive not only the vital energy but our intelligence. We claim that when we become M.M.'s we are brought into the most intimate fellowship with the mysterious Architect, the Master Builder, H., A.B.; but this is because we then come to share the knowledge that he had of the Most High God.
The Craft Mason might object that we have no such emblem in the Lodge as the Master Pillar; but in point of fact it is foreshadowed from the beginning in the P., to which the Candidate is taught to "advance in due form," which means in the attitude of a supplicant "humbly soliciting" what will presently be granted. The posture prescribed for the occasion is symbolic of the attitude of mind and heart which we expect from him.
The P. in the First Degree is an ordinary material object, a substituted symbol, but as  we discover very soon, it is situated at a point of the compass which is suggestive of light and proves ultimately to be the place where light is obtained. Accordingly, in the Second and Third Degrees, when the Candidates are asked to make their way to that spot, we no longer remember the P., but instead we speak of advancing to the E., where one day we shall find this same Pillar that we are inquiring about.
That point is practically what the F.C. describes as "the middle of the building," and what the M.M. calls "the center." It is in fact the place where the Sun rises, where the knowledge is acquired.
And passing from the Lesser Mysteries of the Craft to the Greater Mysteries of the Chapter, we shall find that the matter is further elucidated. We may be told that the R.A. is comparatively a new thing, dating only from the middle of the eighteenth century. But the R.A. has preserved for us what is undoubtedly the pith and marrow of the Craft, having protected it from profanation at a time when there was great danger of the Cowans invading the Lodge. The meaning of what the M.M. calls "the  center" becomes perfectly clear when the three M.M.'s from B. report their discovery of "something like the base of a P. or C.," which eventually turns out to be the key to our whole system. It is when the Mason has discovered the block of white marble, the Altar of Incense, the Double Cube, that he qualifies for exaltation to the high rank which the Chapter confers.
And that the Tradition of the R.A. is not
a modern invention can be proved by reproducing what Philostorgius
wrote about the year A.D. 364 - more than 1500 years since - concerning
an old story which had reached him. In one of the various attempts
made to rebuild the Temple at Jerusalem, he says, while the ground
was being prepared, a stone slipped from its place and there was
exposed to view a deep cutting or well. One of the workmen being
then let down by a rope, he found himself in a subterranean chamber,
which proved to be rectangular in form. As this place was flooded,
the workman had to wade in water up to the ankles, but he had
the happiness of discovering a small column which stood there,
and which, when brought to the surface, as he himself was drawn
up, was seen to have some inscription,  which began with these
words: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with
God, and the Word was God." The parallel is sufficiently
like our version of it, to make us feel that there is some foundation
for what the P.S. rehearses in the Chapter.
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