• The Esoteric Meaning of the Twin Pillars: Boaz and Jachin

    Since the dawn of civilization, the entrance of sacred and mysterious places have been guarded by two pillars.

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Whether in art or in architecture, twin pillars are archetypal symbols representing an important gateway or passage towards the unknown. In Freemasonry, the pillars are named Jachin and Boaz and represent one of the Brotherhood’s most recognizable symbol, prominently featured in Masonic art, documents and buildings. This article will look at the origins of this timeless symbol and its esoteric meaning.

The concept of twin pillars standing at the gates of sacred places can be traced back to ancient civilizations of Antiquity (some claim from Atlantis, the lost source of Hermetic knowledge).

A Gateway

The symbol of the twin pillars have, since time immemorial, guarded the gateways to holy places and mysterious realms. They mark the passage towards the unknown and the otherworldly. In ancient Greece, The Pillars of Hercules was the phrase that was applied to the promontories that flank the entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar. The northern Pillar is the Rock of Gibraltar in the British territory of Gibraltar.

2PillarsHercules
The Pillars of Hercules guarding the passage towards the unknown.

According to Plato’s account, the lost realm of Atlantis was situated beyond the Pillars of Hercules, in effect placing it in the realm of the Unknown. Renaissance tradition says the pillars bore the warning Nec plus ultra (also Non plus ultra, “nothing further beyond”), serving as a warning to sailors and navigators to go no further. Symbolically, going beyond the Pillars of Hercules can mean leaving the foulness of the material world to reach a higher realm of enlightenment.

The two columns called the “Pillars of Hercules” in Ancient Greece stood at the gateway to the sphere of the enlightened

The frontispice of Francis Bacon’s “New Atlantis” featuring the Pillars of Hercules as a gateway to a new world. According to occult lore, Atlantis is the civilization from which all hermetic knowledge emerged. The rebirth of this lost kingdom has been the dream of Mystery schools for centuries.

“The city of the philosophic elect rises from the highest mountain peak of the earth, and here the gods of the wise dwell together in everlasting felicity. In the foreground are the symbolic pillars of Hercules which appear on the title page of Bacon’s Novum Organum, and between them runs the path which leads upward from the uncertainties of earth to that perfect order which is established in the sphere of the enlightened.”

In Freemasonry

The Masonic usage of the terms Jachin and Boaz originates from the Biblical account of King Solomon’s Temple. The master builder of the Temple of Solomon was Hiram Abiff, a prominent figure in Masonic ritual. The verses 1 Kings 6:1-38, 1 Kings Chapter 7, and Chapter 8 describe the dimensions, the construction and the dedication of the Temple under Solomon. One passage describes more specifically the twin pillars standing in front of King Solomon’s Temple.

temple de Salomon
An artist rendition of King Solomon’s Temple.

The account of Solomon’s Temple is of great importance in Freemasonry as each detail of the building holds an important esoteric meaning. The Twin pillars act as a “portal to the Mysteries” by standing on each side of the entrance to a sacred place.

“According to the ancient Rabbins, Solomon was an initiate of the Mystery schools and the temple which he built was actually a house of initiation containing amass of pagan philosophic and phallic emblems. The pomegranates, the palm-headed columns, the Pillars before the door, the Babylonian cherubim, and the arrangement of the chambers and draperies all indicate the temple to have been patterned after the sanctuaries of Egypt and Atlantis.”

For this reason, Jachin and Boaz are prominently featured on Masonic buildings, monuments and documents. Here is Albert Pike’s description of the pillars in a text intended for new Masons:

“You entered the Lodge between two columns. They represent the two which stood in the porch of the Temple, on each side of the great eastern gateway. These pillars, of bronze, four fingers breadth in thickness, were, according to the most authentic account–that in the First and that in the Second Book of Kings, confirmed in Jeremiah– eighteen cubits high, with a capital five cubits high. The shaft of each was four cubits in diameter. A cubit is one foot and 707/1000. That is, the shaft of each was a little over thirty feet eight inches in height, the capital of each a little over eight feet six inches in height, and the diameter of the shaft six feet ten inches. The capitals were enriched by pomegranates of bronze, covered by bronze net-work, and ornamented with wreaths of bronze; and appear to have imitated the shape of the seed-vessel of the lotus or Egyptian lily, a sacred symbol to the Hindus and Egyptians. The pillar or column on the right, or in the south, was named, as the Hebrew word is rendered in our translation of the Bible, JACHIN: and that on the left BOAZ. Our translators say that the first word means, “He shall establish;” and the second, “In it is strength.”

These columns were imitations, by Khurum, the Tyrian artist, of the great columns consecrated to the Winds and Fire, at the entrance to the famous Temple of Malkarth, in the city of Tyre. It is customary, in Lodges of the York Rite, to see a celestial globe on one, and a terrestrial globe on the other; but these are not warranted, if the object be to imitate the original two columns of the Temple. The symbolic meaning of these columns we shall leave for the present unexplained, only adding that Entered Apprentices keep their working-tools in the column JACHIN; and giving you the etymology and literal meaning of the two names.

The word JACHIN, in Hebrew, probably pronounced Ya-kayan, and meant, as a verbal noun, He that strengthens; and thence, firm, stable, upright.

The word Boaz is Baaz which means Strong, Strength, Power, Might, Refuge, Source of Strength, a Fort. The prefix means “with” or “in,” and gives the word the force of the Latin gerund, roborando–Strengthening The former word also means he will establish, or plant in an erect position–from the verb Kun, he stood erect. It probably meant Active and Vivifying Energy and Force; and Boaz, Stability, Permanence, in the passive sense.”

Masonic Chart
The Twin Pillars on a Masonic Tracing Board
masonic_temple
Inside a Masonic Lodge
Monument maconnique Israel
Masonic monument in Israel featuring the twin pillars.
Papesse du Tarot
The High Priestress of the Tarot sitting between Boaz and Jachin.

Esoteric Meaning

As with most occult symbols, the Masonic twin pillars conceal multiple layers of meaning, some intended for the profane and others divulged in higher degrees of Freemasonry. However, it is generally accepted that the Jachin and Boaz represent the equilibrium between two opposite forces.
The union of the two pillars is said to generate a third pillar, one in the middle, which esoterically represents man and mankind.

le-pilier-central
The combining of the two oppsite forces of the twin pillars produce the center pillar: the perfected man.

Qabbalistic Meaning

In Qabbalistic teachings, Jachin and Boaz represent the two pillars of Sepiroth, the Tree of Life.

Sephiroths-et-les-trois-grandes-colonnes
The relationship between the two pillars of the Sephiroth and the three major pillars of Freemasonry

In Popular Culture & Architecture

Pillars are sometimes used in pop culture for reasons other than decorative purposes to take on an esoteric meaning. The act standing between or going through pilllars, symbolically representing transformation or initiation, can be found in instances such as:

harry-potter-and-the-sorcerers-stone
The cover of the first book of the Harry Potter series, where he discovers he is a wizard. His “initation” is visually protrayed as him going through two pillars. The original title of the book is Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the Philosopher’s Stone an ancient alchemical concept representing Illumination.
Kanye-West-Jakin et Boaz
Rapper Kanye West standing in the middle of twin pillars in the highly symbolic video Power.
Imaginarium_of_doctor_parnassus
Amongst the plethora of esoteric symbols found in The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, the twin pillars stand on each side of the stage.
IRS dans le Kansas
Two pillars standing in front of the IRS Building in Kansas. Also note the Masonic/dualistic black & white pattern and the hands pointing upwards, known as the “Hand of the Mysteries”.
astana-piliers-maconnique
Two immense pillars and one in the middle in Astana, Khazakhstan, a city whose architecture and layout contain numerous occult elements.
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