Female artist that was aware of the hidden meaning of Kaballah and teachings of freemasonry. Miriam Schapiro
Kahlo: The Broken Column, 1944
Schapiro: The Agony in the Garden, 1991
This “fractured column” symbolizes Man’s separation from knowledge of the Divine, and an interruption in the Pathway leading from Beauty directly to the Crown (which symbolizes “The Vast Countenance” The artists repaired the central column indicating knowledge. Access to the hidden sepiroth daath.
Three Great Columns
The basis for the Three Great Columns can be traced to an ancient Kabalistic concept and a unique diagram found in the Zohar which illustrates the emanations of God in forming and sustaining the universe. The diagram also reflects certain states of spiritual attainment in man. This diagram, called the Sephiroth consists of ten spheres or Sephira connected to one another by pathways and which are ordered to reflect the sequence of creation. In accordance with Kabalistic belief Aur Ein Sof (Light Without End) shines down into the Sephiroth and is split like a prism into its ten constituent Sephira[xiii], eventually ending in the material universe. To discuss the Sephiroth in sufficient depth to impart a good understanding is well beyond the scope of this paper; however, a basic understanding of how the structure of the Sephiroth is related to the Great Columns is manageable, and is in fact essential to the subsequent discussion of the Broken Column. Be aware that the explanations I give are vast oversimplifications of a highly complex concept. In an attempt to simplify the concept, it is inevitable that some degree of inaccuracy will be introduced.
I would like to begin my discussion of the Three Great Columns by discussing the Cardinal Virtues. The Cardinal Virtues are believed to have originated with Plato who formed them from a tripartite division[xiv] of the attributes of man (power, wisdom, reason, mercy, strength, beauty, firmness, magnificence, and base kingship) presented in the Sephiroth. These concepts were later adopted by the Christian Church[xv] and were popularized by the treatises of Martin of Braga, Alcuin and Hrabanus Maurus (circa 1100 A.D.) and later promoted by Thomas Aquinas (circa 1224 A.D.). According to Wescott[xvi] the Four Cardinal Virtues are represented by what were originally branches of the Sepheroth:
“Four tassels refer to four cardinal virtues, says the first degree Tracing Board Lecture, these are temperance, fortitude, prudence, and justice; these again were originally branches of the Sephirotic Tree, Chesed first, Netzah fortitude, Binah prudence, and Geburah justice. Virtue, honour, and mercy, another triad, are Chochmah, Hod, and Chesed.”
broken-column1 Thus we have a connection between the Cardinal Virtues and the Sephiroth. The Three Pillars of Freemasonry (Wisdom, Beauty, and Strength) are associated with the Cardinal Virtues[xvii] and also therefore with the Kabalistic concept of the Sephiroth[xviii]. I have provided an illustration of the Sepiroth in Figure 1. This particular version of the Sephiroth is based upon that used in the 30th Degree or Knight Kadosh Grade[xix] of the ASSR. The Sephiroth, incidentally is also called “The Tree of Life”. Each of the vertical columns of spheres (Sephira) in the Sephiroth are considered to represent a pillar (column). Each pillar is named according to the central concept which it represents; thus in Figure 1 we have the pillars Justice, Beauty, and Mercy left to right, respectively. The Sephiroth is a very elegant system in which balance is maintained between the Sephira of the two outermost pillars by virtue of the center pillar. Note also that traditionally the Sephiroth is divided into “Triads” of Sephira. In Figure 1 the uppermost triad, consisting of the spheres Wisdom, Intelligence, and Crown represent the intellectual and spiritual characteristics of man. The next triad is represented by the Sephira Justice, Beauty, and Mercy; the final triad is Splendor, Foundation, and Firmness (or Strength).
According to S.L. MacGregor Mathers[xx], the word Sephira is best translated to mean (or is best rendered as) “Numerical Emanation”, and each of the ten Sephira corresponds to a specific numerical value. Mathers also asserts that it was through knowledge of the Sephiroth that Pythagoras devised his system of numerical symbolism. While there are additional divisions and subdivisions of the Sephiroth, the concept which is of interest to us here is that God created the Material World or Universe (signified by the lowest Sephira, Kingdom) in a series of ordered actions which proceeded along established pathways (i.e. the connecting lines between the Sephira in our Figure). Each of the Sephira and each pathway are a sort of “buffer” between the majesty and power of God and the material world. Without these buffers, profane man and the material world he inhabits would meet with destruction. On the other hand, enlightened man is able to progress upwards along these pathways to higher level Sephira and to thereby achieve enhanced knowledge of the Divine. Tradition holds that man once was closer to the Divine spirit, but became corrupted by the material world, losing this connection (i.e. The fall of Man from Grace. Note also the reference to the Tree of Knowledge and possible connections to the Tree of Life). God uses the Sephiroth in renewing and sustaining the material universe. Each new soul created is an emanation of God and travels to materiality (physical existence) via the pathways established in the Sephiroth. In a similar fashion, the spirits of the departed return to God via these same pathways, making the Sephiroth the mechanism by which God interacts with the universe.
broken-column2 The Broken Column
In Figure 2, I have redrawn the Sephiroth as an overlay of the Three Great Columns; however in this version the Pillar of Beauty is Broken. Note especially that the center pillar, the Pillar of Beauty in the Sephiroth has a gap between Beauty and Crown, in effect making this column a Broken Pillar[xxi]. I believe this “fracture” symbolizes Man’s separation from knowledge of the Divine, and an interruption in the Pathway leading from Beauty directly to the Crown (which symbolizes “The Vast Countenance”[xxii]).
I would also like to extrapolate that if the Broken Column indeed represents Hiram Abif as per the explanation given to initiates, then the two remaining columns would then correspond to Solomon and Hiram King of Tyre[xxiii]. Certainly the Sephira (Wisdom, Justice, and Splendor) which comprise the column of Justice align well with the characteristics traditionally associated with King Solomon. Tradition unfortunately does not address Hiram King of Tyre although we can assume that Intelligence, Mercy, and Firmness or Strength would be a likely requirement for a Monarch of such apparent success. The connection between the Three Great Columns and the three principle characters in the drama of the Third Degree does have a certain sense of validity. The “Lost Word” associated with Hiram Abif would then allude to the lost Pathway.
In so many of our Masonic Lessons we initially receive a plausible but quite shallow explanation of our symbols and allusions. Those who sense an underlying, deeper meaning tend to find it (Seek and you will find, knock and the door shall be opened). Perhaps in our ritual of the Third Degree, that which is symbolically being raised (restored) is the Pillar of which resides within us. If so, the Lost Word has then in fact been received by each of us. It only remains lost if we choose to forget it or choose not to pursue it.